A wonderful piece on Inc.com highlights how a moment of inspiration — extracting a cork from a wine bottle — resulted in The Innovation Story of the Year — a new way to safely extract babies stuck in the birth canal. Also reported in the New York Times last month, the story of Argentine car mechanic Jorge Odón illustrates the unpredictable nature of innovation.
After viewing a YouTube video about removing a cork from a wine bottle, Odón says his subconscious made the jump to the birthing process. He built the first prototype in his kitchen, using a glass jar for a womb, his daughter’s doll for the trapped baby, and a fabric bag and sleeve sewn by his wife as his lifesaving device. The bag was inserted into the bottle, inflated around the doll’s head, and then both items were pulled out of the bottle.
With some refinements, the current Odón Device features a plastic bag inside a lubricated plastic sleeve that is placed around the head of the baby, inflated until it grips the head, and pulled until the baby emerges. The device has the full support of Dr. Mario Merialdi, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief coordinator for improving maternal and perinatal health.
Many companies invest heavily in research & development laboratories, hoping to innovate products like the one created by Odón. But as Dr. Merialdi succinctly put it, “This problem needed someone like Jorge. An obstetrician would have tried to improve the forceps or the vacuum extractor, but obstructed labor needed a mechanic. And 10 years ago, this would not have been possible. Without YouTube, he never would have seen the video.”
Innovation does not just belong to R & D, it belongs to innovators around the world who get inspired by what they see, such as a YouTube video, and then dream a new product.