Innovation Constraints and Lateral Thinking

In the third world, 4 million children die every year within a month of birth.

It’s an avoidable tragedy

If half of those children were simply kept warm and clean they would survive.

In the developed world we have incubators that do exactly that.  I spent the first week of my life in one.  And that was in the late 60’s.  (We have had the technology for a long time).

But it isn’t the technology that is the problem.  You can buy a second-hand hospital incubator for about £1,000 and ship it to a village on the Amazon.  It may well work for a year.  But when it breaks it breaks.  The infrastructure isn’t there.  They don’t have the spare parts or the engineers or the consumables.

It is futile.

Or is it?

The marvel of lateral thinking

A company called Design that Matters have come up with a solution.

Wherever you go in the world you will find a beat up, second-hand Toyota.  And wherever you find a beat up second-hand Toyota you will find someone who can fix it, complete with a set of spare parts.

Design that Matters built an incubator that uses those spare parts.

  • The heat from head lights keeps it warm
  • A car fan and filter system keep it clean
  • Every car has a temperature gauge
  • Warning lights are used as warning lights (ingenious)
  • And power comes from a battery

Easy to maintain, wherever you are.

Nowhere is perfect

It isn’t perfect where I work, we don’t have everything we need, I could write a long, long list of failings and constraints, things that get in the way.  I bet you could do the same, no organisation is perfect.

Instead of moaning about what you haven’t got how about working with what you have?  It might take you somewhere.

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Innovation Constraints

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Image by JLaw45


  1. Hello James,
    I find this post inspiring thank you for writing it and putting it into the world. Your last paragraph says it all and speaks deeply to me. I hope t does the same for all your other readers.


  2. Hi James,
    Fantastic and inspiring story about Design That Matters.

    Another issue that needs solving is nutrition. Listening to the Tesco CEO speak the other day he came up with a fact that astounded me….he said that the West throws away enough food every day to feed the rest of the world.

    I wonder what Design That Matters or any other smart group would do with that piece of information?


    • James Lawther says:

      That is a tragic fact Adrian. I know that some companies e.g. Pret a Manger ensure that anything they don’t use is given to charity. Not only is that a sensible thing to do, but also good PR. Maybe more should follow.


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