Guest Author: Joelle Everett
a complex and fast-changing world, complexity science suggests that
small changes in initial conditions can lead to large changes in
outcomes. This might be accomplished by producing a variety of
prototypes to try out then assess, creating a rapid learning cycle. It
may be desirable to have multiple designs available to serve specific
local needs. Using conventional manufacturing methods, this can be a
slow and expensive process. Today, however, prototypes can be produced
by machines that work very much like the laser printer that may be
sitting on your desk right now.
In an ordinary laser printer, the laser scans a document and creates a copy by fusing ink particles onto a sheet of paper. In 3-D printing,
a three dimensional object can be scanned layer by layer, and a
duplicate object is formed in a bed of composite powder by injecting
color fluid and binder fluid in the scanned pattern.
A similar process, metal sintering,
uses the heat of the laser to fuse metal particles, and the product is
built up layer by layer from a 3D CAD model. No tooling is required, and
a part can be produced in a few hours. Metal sintering is being used to
build both prototypes and parts in a variety of industries, including
aerospace, medical and dental.
There are many applications in healthcare. A Plexus Thursday Complexity Post
on March 10, 2011, reported on the production of replacement organs by
3-D bioprinting. Researchers are developing personalized artificial hip
joints formed with the ball already in the socket. In the future, there
may be machines that could replicate an injured body part with cultured cells from the patient's body, using something similar to an ink-jet printer.
Rapid prototyping can also be used in social and behavioral innovation. In the Plexus Positive Deviance MRSA initiative,
several hospitals used role play and improvisational theater to
practice new approaches to challenging social situations: How do I tell
the patient he has an antibiotic-resistant infection? How do I tell the
doctor she needs to wash her hands? Physically playing out common
situations helped hospitals develop new protocols for challenges such as
safely transporting an infected patient.
In an innovative practice and research project
for a large hospital, the Center for Medical Simulation created
scenarios that allowed administrative and physician leadership teams to
experience situations with patient safety risks, debrief their own
responses, and create action steps for needed change.
and other methods for rapid prototyping are bringing us closer to the
day that it will be common to create products specifically for an
individual user, and social innovations uniquely appropriate for their
local situation. Today's real-life replicator machines are bringing us
full circle to a new era of a craftsman using his artistry on behalf of
his very special customer.
Joelle Everett is
founding partner of Sound Resources, an international consulting firm
based in SW Washington State. Her clients--organizations from business,
public, nonprofit and healthcare sectors, and individuals--are often
struggling to respond to changing circumstances, or hoping to create
transformational change. She was a coach on the Plexus Positive Deviance
MRSA initiative She helps clients build skill sets for communication,
facilitation, collaborative problem solving, implementation and
leadership. She especially enjoys engaging a whole organization in
conversations to discover and create fresh responses to challenges and
many years she was a facilitator of Creative Problem Solving Institutes
in Buffalo, NY, San Diego, CA and Vancouver, BC. She edits occasional
newsletters for the Open Space Institute. In her community she taught
illiterate adults to read, worked as program director for Harmony Hill
Retreat Center, and is volunteering with Neighborhood Watch. Most fun
project? A month in Siberia, teaching leadership skills to Siberian
women leaders. Joelle is author of Strange and Wonderful Things, a book of original poems. She treasures opportunities to have fun with her nine grandchildren.
is also the host and facilitator of Plexus Institute's monthly Health
Quality Learning Group calls. The calls take place the third Wednesday
of the month at 10am eastern at 218-844-0840, 493732#. Join her
September 21 for a discussion on Creating Healthcare Safety Leadership with guests Jeffrey B. Cooper and Jay W. Vogt. Audio of previous calls is available in the Health Quality Learning Group.