Be a Jellyfish Not an Elephant: Insights from Episode Two of the UH Ventures Health Voyagers Series

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Be a Jellyfish, not an Elephant…that was the concluding plea Peter Pronovost, MD, UH Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, made during his Keynote address delivered at the UH Ventures’ Call of the Wild event. Held August 16 at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, over 125 healthcare professionals and representatives of Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem attended the second installment in their Health Voyagers series — Call of the Wild: Biomimicry for Healthcare Innovation.

The conference showcased examples of how we can take lessons from nature to solve problems and innovate – Biomimicry. Attendees heard from established companies that have successfully used Biomimicry in their product design as well as start-up enterprises looking for potential partners or interest in their concepts.

Dr. Pronovost discussed three main management structure learnings taken from nature:

  • Fractals – encountered ubiquitously in nature – essentially operate as though every higher level has a connection to a lower level.  Think about co-creation of goals, peer learning and accountability.
  • Birds – Blue Tits (flocking birds) vs. Red Robbins (solitary birds). Apply this to the work environment – collaborators vs. siloed operators. Both birds used to flourish in London, now the red Robbins are extinct because when their feeding source changed, their singular nature didn’t allow for “group think” and the sharing of information on how to figure out a new way to access food.
  • Bees – world’s best decision makers. When selecting a new hive, the Queen bee sends drones to scout. If they like a hive, they come back and waggle. But other bees don’t just accept that opinion, they collect more data to make an informed decision and send more bees out to evaluate.

He also talked briefly about turtle navigation and the UH Ventures team using that nature-driven concept to develop the new Hospital Maps wayfinding app for UH Cleveland Medical Center.

But his final ask of the audience was to act more like a Jellyfish than an Elephant. “Generally as humans our area of training involves one deep methological area, for example a physicist or biologist. It’s important to have that deep knowledge, but you must also be like a Jellyfish in that besides that one long tentacle, you are humble and curious to grow other small tentacles.” For example, he stressed as a computer scientist, it’s important to know about economics and process management to be most effective at your job.

Click here to see Dr. Pronovost’s presentation.