Identifying Solutions

Once you have identified the problem you want to solve, the next step is to develop solutions. Ideation is a process often used to generate solutions. Look at your problem statement and generate a collection of “How Might We…” statements addressing every angle of the problem. Good HMW statements stem from some of the unique insights you have and are highly generative, spawning a number of different solutions. For example:

How might we help surgical team members identify the tasks they need to do?

How might we help surgical team members better communicate with each other during a procedure?

How might we help surgical technicians complete their tasks seamlessly?

Once you have your questions, you can start brainstorming. In a good brainstorm, all voices are participatory and equal. There are no wall flowers who “observe”. This is critical to keep people who are generating ideas from feeling judged and thus getting blocked. They need to let their minds expand, and sometimes saying the wrong thing is exactly what leads to the right thing.

When brainstorming, we recommend following a well-established set of rules:



You never know where a good idea is going to come from. The key is make everyone feel like they can say the idea on their mind and allow others to build on it.


Being positive and building on the ideas of others take some skill. In conversation, use “and” instead of “but.”


Aim for as many new ideas as possible. In a good session, up to 100 ideas are generated in 60 minutes. Crank the ideas out quickly and build on the best ones.


Try to keep the discussion on target, otherwise you can diverge beyond the scope of what you're trying to design for.


Wild ideas can often give rise to creative leaps. In thinking about ideas that are wacky or out there we tend to think about what we really want without the constraints of technology or materials.


Write down your ideas on stickies and then put them on a wall. Nothing gets an idea across faster than drawing it. Doesn't matter if you're not Rembrandt!


We recommend limiting each brainstorm to 1 hour, and inviting an array of different people (we like to have around 8 people). Provide lots of stickies and sharpies, and insist that everyone write or draw their own idea down before sharing it with the group and posting it on the wall. Many groups find that starting with 10 or so minutes of silent, individual brainstorming before jumping into the group process is a helpful way to kick-off the process.

Evaluating Solutions

Ideation can generate hundreds of potential directions you might take your solution, and your task is to pick the right path (or small set of potential pathways). When evaluating a potential solution, pay attention to your “blink” reaction – the first impression you have when hearing something. According to Malcolm Gladwell, this reaction is often quite accurate, and further analysis could lead you astray. That said, you’ll still need analysis to justify your selection.


A good solution needs to be feasible, desirable and viable. The convergence of these three characteristics is so critical that we speak about them in our Commercialization Overview as well.  When selecting a solution to bring forward, use an engineering perspective to audit existing technologies to ensure you can build it (feasibility), use early sketches of the solution to go out and talk with potential end-users to make sure it’s something people want (desirability) and put on your marketing hat to analyze potential commercial pathways to get your solution to market (viability). In short, you need to be able to sell a build-able product that people want. If it passes the test of all three filters, then you have a good solution.

Our last topic is what to do once you have a great solution in hand.

Don’t forget your economic analysis

supply costs and OR time, but advocates say that the da Vinci increases the precision of the repair, decreases pain and decreases recovery time. However, the hospital's reimbursement does not change between a laparoscopic procedure and a da Vinci one, and the improvements in patients outcomes exist but are marginal in the big picture. As a result, some hospital systems are discussing policies to ban their surgeons from using the da Vinci for routine hernia repairs.

It is critical for innovators to understand the impact of their technology in the market. Better clinical outcomes or higher perceived quality are no longer enough to drive adoption. You must understand your monetary value proposition. Most hospitals now have an economic analysis as part of their purchase review, and if innovators are not prepared for this, they will not make it through.

Today every penny spent by a healthcare system matters. While clinical improvements alone would have sold a product in the past, today the product will only be adopted if you can also show monetary cost savings as a result of purchasing the product. It needs to cost less, demonstrate proven efficiency gains or show clinical improvements that reduce other patient costs in the long run. 

For example, in recent times surgeons have started using the da Vinci surgical robot for hernia repairs, a surgery that dates back 130 years to the 1880's and saw a major shift in the 1980's when the procedure started being done laparoscopically. 

Using the da Vinci robot costs more than just doing a traditional laparoscopic procedure, due to increased