“As 18-month-old Alexander Barham was wheeled into intensive care, his survival depended on the expertise of the medical specialists all around him and, in no small part, on the split-second precision of the Ferrari Formula One motor racing team”. A gripping story in the Telegraph describes how a major restructuring of the patient handover procedure resulted from the input of the F1 pit technicians. Surgeons at a London childrens hospital became aware of the similarities between the handover disciplines from theatre to intensive care and what they saw in the pit of a Formula One racing team. Their complex and life-critical process involves coupling a bewilderment of tubes to drug supply, ventilation and monitoring equipment above the young patient’s head. The story describes how Ferrari’s race technical director Nigel Stepney helped the hospital team improve the procedure. Stepney comments in the story: “It takes a long time to establish a (pit) team. We have twenty-odd people working together for four to six years to get a routine which lasts little more than four seconds. They work round the clock, every day, with ever-changing personnel, so what they need is a formula to work to.”
I heard about this story from Lynne Maher, who leads the Innovation Practice programme at the National Health Service Institute for Innovation and Improvement. We share a fascination with the transfer of solutions from one context to another. Many designers these days are inspired by biomimicry to avoid re-inventing wheels that nature has already invented. But the transfer of practical knowledge from one man-made domain to another remains an under-exploited source of innovation for designers. Projects like Anil Gupta’s Honeybee Network inspired us at the first Doors East back in 2000, but there’s a lot more creative scavenging to be done out there. If you have your own favourite example, please share it with us.