Using Innovation Superpower to Change Health Care Experience and Delivery

A Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation (CFI) Arizona team traveled to Kanazawa, Japan, to help students and medical school professionals discover their personal innovation strengths and apply them using CFI’s Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast techniques.

The team, Barbara Barry, design lead, and Naomi Woychick, innovation coordinator, led an Innovation and Design Workshop at the University of Kanazawa Medical School in Kanazawa, Japan in late January.

Professor Andrew Schneider of the University hosted the CFI Arizona team. University of Kanazawa undergraduate and graduate students, medical students and residents took part in the workshop.  The Dean of the Medical School and three physicians also participated, as students in the two days of discovery and learning.

During the planning, Professor Schneider guided the CFI team to create an experience that would be light, interactive, fun and thought provoking. Allison Matthews, CFI designer, assisted the team in designing workshop activities. Nic Breutzman and Allison Dunphy, also part of the CFI team, provided the group with illustration and graphic support. In addition to exploring innovation, participants were encouraged to use and practice their English language skills.  While a translator was provided, his role was to intercede only if necessary to resolve a misunderstanding. The expectation was for Barbara and Naomi to conduct the event in English and participants to interact with each other and CFI staff in English.

On the day preceding the workshop Professor Schneider and Doctors Yoneda and Hara of the medical school provided a tour of the hospital followed by a luncheon with the Dean and university faculty.


[photo L to R: Professor Andrew Schneider; Masako Toriya Ph. D, Organization of Frontier Science and Innovation; Takashi Yoneda, MD, Ph.D, Program Management for Paradigms; Toshinori Murayama, MD Ph. D, Professor and Chair Dept of Clinical Development Innovative Clinical Research Center; Shoichi Iseki, MD, Ph. D, Dean, College of Medical, Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences; Naomi; Barbara; Seigo Kinuya, MD, Ph. D, Director of Nuclear Medicine Services; Akinori Hara, MD, Ph. D, Faculty of Medicine]

Discovering Innovation Super Power

The first day of the workshop centered on CFI’s nine skills of innovation teams: anthropologist, roadblock remover, communicator, visionary, tech guru, taskmaster, idea generator, connector, and forecaster.

Using a quiz and self-reflection questions, each participant identified his or her own unique innovation strengths. The strongest skill pinpointed for each is that person’s “innovation superpower.”


Following the discovery of their innovation super power, the students enjoyed applying their skills in a lively and timed activity. They assembled a Mr. Potato Head multiple times and worked to improve their process after each iteration.  Then, they brainstormed toy design improvements and concepts. They were instructed to focus on innovation skills and teamwork as they completed the tasks. Each student completed the day having created a personalized innovation profile.


Envisioning a Future of Health Care

Building on learnings and insights from the first day, on the second day workshop leaders asked the group to think big and use their innovation superpowers to envision how patients might be cared for in the future. Starting small, each team was given a patient scenario, a technology, (e.g. robots), and a date in the future as guides to build their story. Moving fast and using comic frames, they created stories about how a patient might be served in this future date, incorporating the new technology into the care process.  This activity resonated with the participants since drawing is an integral part of Japanese education and comics are very popular.


The workshop finale featured three presenters from each team sharing with the full group; one shared the comic frame by frame, another shared a team observation and the third shares the team’s favorite comic frame.


Observations and Reflections

The students were so delightful! Comments:

“It is great work on Day 2. I got the chance to feel innovation with thinking, imagining, and discussing about our theme.”

“We had this good experience, but it was a little short, I think. If we had enough time like half a day we could enjoy more and more. However I am lucky to have this valuable chance – thank you!”

“People think so differently and I found that I like harmonizing with them. I could understand myself more.”

Our parting conversation with the faculty was around the wonderful interactions and the friendships we developed.   We believe this is the beginning of a great relationship and look forward to where we might go next, together!