The Mental Stretch of Innovation

You never know when a different way of looking at things may turn into a key innovation.  Consider the findings of Virginia Apgar, anesthesiology professor at Columbia Medical School.

In 1952, Virginia Apgar claimed that a newborn baby’s survival was related to its condition just after birth.  This was a revolutionary idea at the time, and like many innovative ideas it was met with considerable skepticism.

As reported in the recent issue of Mental Floss magazine, Apgar spent one year observing over two thousand deliveries, which helped her develop a grading system for newborns.  The newborns were examined and graded at one minute and again at five minutes after birth, and points were awarded based on five criteria for health: pulse, respiration, muscle tone, color, and reflexes.

Apgar made sure that babies with low scores received closer attention.  If the babies then needed medical help, they received it proactively, which greatly increased survival rates.

This grading system became known as the Apgar Score, and today it is still considered the gold standard.  Research has substantiated the relationship between the five-minute Apgar Score and neonatal survival rates.  Thanks to Virginia Apgar and her innovative way of thinking, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved.

You never know when a new idea will save lives or make a process more efficient or build a stronger team; therefore we need to consider how we nurture new ideas.  Do we create an environment supportive of innovation, or have we been too close minded to ideas outside of the mainstream?

It’s not always easy to allow our minds to get stretched, but if we care about our teams and those who benefit from our services, a little bit of stretching may be exactly what we need.

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