The MedX team visits Palo Alto design firm IDEO

Wall-to-wall whiteboards; colorful Post-it Notes; squeaky markers; caffeinated beverages.  These, of course, are the physical markers of The Brainstorm, and they surrounded the Medicine X team on Wednesday as Dr. Larry Chu and John Stafford sat down to meet with Dennis Boyle at Palo Alto’s storied design firm, IDEO.

On topic: the medical conference — and how to do it better.

Dennis Boyle, General Partner, Health and Wellness Practice, IDEO

Boyle, a founding team member of IDEO and a partner who helps to lead the firm’s health and wellness practice, spoke at last year’s Stanford Summit @ Medicine 2.0.  This year he’s serving on the recently announced Medicine X advisory board, helping to craft not only conference content, but also its design.  To this role he brings years of consulting and teaching experience, throughout which he’s advocated a human-centered design approach.

When his firm was working with Procter & Gamble, for example, to craft the next generation of the Swiffer household mop, engineers camped out in Palo Alto homes to watch people clean their floors.  When Air New Zealand asked IDEO to rethink the cabin environment onboard its long-haul flights, engineers spent a month in the North and South Islands first, taking time to understand the country’s culture.  And when Boyle’s students in a design course at Stanford were tasked with tackling the nationwide explosion of Type-II diabetes, they left campus and crossed Freeway 101 to get to know real patients in East Palo Alto.

Putting the patient at the center of medical innovation is a philosophy that’s perfectly in keeping with the thinking behind Medicine X, and it represents just one area in which IDEO is going to help expand and define the conference this year.  We’re looking forward to building in greater interactivity at all levels of the conference and also to fostering more collaboration among our uniquely diverse attendant pool.  Boyle’s guidance will be felt in other, more concrete, ways as well.  Vague?  That’s necessarily so; look for specifics in official announcements to come.

From left: Stafford, Boyle and Chu

As the Medicine X team left the ground floor of the Palo Alto firm on Wednesday to catch the fading sunlight, we turned our backs on a line of text that circled the walls of the room behind us.  It was the law that governs IDEO’s brainstorming process: Defer judgment.  Encourage wild ideas.  Build on the ideas of others.  Stay focused on topic.  One conversation at a time.  Be visual.  Go for quantity.

We’re looking forward to it.

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