The Art of Doing

What the Creators of IVF Can Teach Us About Innovation

Robert Edwards 2,500th child.Dr. Robert Edwards spent decades trying to solve the riddle of infertility with IVF. His innovative approach was a lot like any you could find in a modern-day startup—underfunded, scrappy and improvised.

It was in the mid-1950s when Robert G. Edwards, a young post-grad student who worked menial jobs to pay for his tuition at the University of Edinburgh, got a crazy idea.

Working on a genetics project with mouse embryos at a university lab, Edwards wondered if he could “pluck the egg from the ovary [of a woman] and fertilize it in the laboratory,” he wrote in his book, A Matter of Life. More importantly, he thought, if he could transfer the resultant embryo back into the woman’s womb, he’d solve one of mankind’s most vexing biological problems–infertility.

Considering this leap from mouse to man, it was an audacious thought, and a highly unlikely goal for a young scientist-to-be. But nearly 25 years later, in 1978, Edwards’s dream came true when the first child was born through in vitro fertilization.

The history of every innovation is unique with its own idiosyncratic quirks, characters, and defining cultural moments. But when we look back on ideas that were mere visions before they were embraced by the public, such as IVF, it can be helpful to see how an innovator like Edwards (who died earlier this month) pulled it off. Here are some lessons any entrepreneur or visionary can borrow from Edwards’s quest: Continue reading “What the Creators of IVF Can Teach Us About Innovation”

Dont’ Get Mad—Get Innovative

It may be human nature to bitch and moan about what’s wrong with the world, but many successful innovators when faced with life’s aggravations don’t just complain. Instead, they take personal responsibility and marshal all their resources to figure out how to improve what’s wrong.

When we interviewed Bill Gross for our book “The Art of Doing, How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well,” Gross, founder and CEO of Idealab, a business incubator that has fostered the creation of nearly 100 businesses told us, “My ideas arise from an internal need, something I want that I can’t get. When I use a product or drive in traffic and experience something that irks me I want to fix it.” Continue reading “Dont’ Get Mad—Get Innovative”