Thanks Dad

In 2012, I was invited to give a TEDx Talk at Wake Forest University’s Wait Chapel.  With over 1000 people expected for their inaugural TEDxWakeForestU event, the idea of speaking in front of that many people was something I didn’t take lightly.

This talk was a defining moment for my life as a public speaker and for my craft of coaching innovation and design.  With the market research and prep put into the talk, I ended up coining the process “Ideation through Enlightened Empathy” to describe the journey I was taking NC State Biomedical Engineering seniors through.

More importantly, it was recorded, watched, shared, and watched again.  Some of the people that watched it would reach out to me and provide feedback, constructive criticism, counterpoints, just plain criticism, and/or ask for clarification.

I’ve changed so much since this talk, both mentally and physically, that I often wish to have the stage back to do it again.  Bottom line, I learned more from giving this talk than any other … and thirst for that kind of learning.

I’ve always been a free thinking, open minded, criticism seeking person.  But, I didn’t actively enter into a blog or a lecture thinking that those opportunities to share were my biggest ROI for learning.  Thus the “Your Feedback Matters” on the right bar of this blog page.  Today, I take every opportunity to share with others as an opportunity to learn from the resulting discussion.

So, what’s this got to do with Dad?  It’s Father’s Day Morning right now, and I’m thinking about my Dad.  He turned 80 this year and he’s still sharp as a tack, especially when telling “Uncle Noon” jokes.

Well, during this talk, I make a note that my first motorcycle was a 1968 BMW R60/5 and compared that to Steve Jobs’ 1966 R60/2.

“If this is all I have, a motorcycle similar to Steve Jobs, then I’ve done something right. Right?”

What I failed to mention was that my first motorcycle, that I started riding in 1990, was originally bought, brand new, by my dad.  So, really, what I should have said was:

“If this is all I have, a motorcycle similar to Steve Jobs, then my dad did something right.”

Maybe that’s why I end my phrase in 2012 with a, “Right?” – a hint that something was missing.

My Dad was a pioneer in the computer industry.  After graduating with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 1959, we went on to work for the US Government to help develop the computer systems behind our national security system.

As a kid, I remember dad working as a computer center director for City College of New York and bringing home punched cards that I’d fashion into roadways for matchbox cards.

I can also remember with amazing clarity the day Dad brought home the Apple IIe from work, which I subsequently spent endless hours playing on.  I became an original leetspeaker where I gained elite status on the pre-internet bulletin board systems of the 80’s, allowing access to remotely located games and chat rooms. (Remind me sometime to tell you the story about my phone number up on the white board as a college professor.)

By the time I was turning 16, I grew bored with computers and was more interested in getting my hands greasy and working on cars, and  learned how to rebuild engines.

At 18, I asked my dad if I could have his motorcycle.  He said, “No.”  At the time, it hadn’t been ridden in yeas, and was collecting cobwebs in the garage, flat tires, dead battery, and in fairly significant disrepair.

Even though he said no, I bought the shop manual for the motorcycle and proceeded to take over the garage by tearing the bike down and rebuilding it over several months.

The day I started it for him, he handed me the title.

So, Dad.  Thank you for teaching me that rejection does not mean failure, and that hard work comes with rewards.

Happy Father’s Day

Health & Happiness for All
Andrew

20 years in a day

Things on DiMeo-dot-info have been quiet lately as I’ve recently made a significant career pivot from teaching biomedical (BME) senior design at NC State to Innovation and Design coach at Trig.

If you are looking for blog posts related to innovation and design, the best thing to do is subscribe to the Trig newsletter.  I’ll continue to post on occasion here at DiMeo-dot-info with a focus on more personal topics such as philosophy, education, and art.

Last weekend I celebrated a 20 year mark in BME.  It was literally 20 years in a day, and included faculty and alums first met in 1998 and students representing every graduating class from 2007 to 2018 (the time I served on the BME faculty).

The turnout lasted a solid 11 hours at MOFU Shoppe and left me speechless, not just from going horse after 11 hours of talking, but from the outpouring of support from so many walks of life including friends, family, former students, fellow alums, faculty members, and industry mentors.

A “thank you” to everyone that came, both in person and in spirit, simply doesn’t do it justice.  No words can.

A week later, I found myself speechless again as we spent the day in Wilkes County mourning the loss and celebrating the life of a 24 year old state trooper who gave his life in the line of duty.

Again, no words can describe the day.  It was by far the most impressive outpouring of love, support, and patriotism that I’ve ever witnessed.

In all, the week, Saturday to Saturday started with the 20 year celebration of BME, then the woman that married us visiting all week while volunteering her time at the AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon, the First Flight Venture Center’s Annual Low Country Boil, the funeral of a State Trooper, a gathering at Ponysaurus in Durham with the Trig team, a graduation ceremony for 20 new State Troopers taking on the roads this Memorial Day Weekend, and visiting with close friends in their new home, with their new baby girl.

From Saturday to Saturday, Abby was by my side…   A father brought his daughter to First Flight Venture Center…  A letter from a fiancé was read to her fallen hero…  Couples sat side by side at Ponysaurus and shared pictures of dogs…  Families celebrated their newly sworn in Troopers achievements…  A one-year-old girl explored her new home.

I suppose if I had to sum it up into one word…

Family

Health & Happiness for All
Andrew

Graduation Day

Today, students from the UNC and NC State Biomedical Engineering class of 2018 will cross the stage and receive their diplomas after 4 (or 5 or more) years of very hard work.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of welcoming these bright minds into a lab and taking a journey with them through a process of innovation.

In 2007, the class decided to celebrate the year of hard work with a symposium.  Since that time, pioneers of the program (the students) have transformed the symposium from a small crowd at MCNC to standing room only at the NC Biotech Center, to it’s current format, renting out the Durham Convention Center.  These students have transformed the class from academic projects to startup companies.

Last week, at the 12th annual symposium, I was honored to give the closing remarks.  Fittingly, it started with failure: (pro tip … never use the term “pro tip”)

The talk was a play on Star Wars: Lifelong Learners that choose to study Biomedical Engineering have the most innovative minds in the galaxy

It was graciously recorded by one of the students and I’m humbled to present it here today on this graduation day.  Congratulations to the class of 2018!!!

Health & Happiness for All
Andrew

Past/Present/Future Celebrations

In lieu of a blog post this week, I’ll encourage you rather to attend one or both of the upcoming events to celebrate the past 20 years in Biomedical Engineering, the current class of 2018, and the next 20 years for all of us together.

12th annual BME Symposium at the Durham Convention Center
Wednesday, May 2nd from 2:00pm to 8:30pm
http://bmesymposium.com/

Come see BME Seniors and i4 Competition Finalists present their work, Dr. Lalush give a keynote address, and closing remarks will be my last lecture as a BME faculty member.  Then join us to take over Fullsteam for an after party.

Restaurant/Bar Takeover
Saturday, May 19, Noon to 10pm at MOFU
https://www.mofushoppe.com/

Contrary to popular belief, my next career move is not to take over a restaurant or bar.  Although, based on the excitement of that potential news, I may have to seriously consider that as an option.

MOFU was opened up by BME alum Sunny Lin, and there’s no better place I can think of to have what we are now referring to as “Bar Sit Day”

I’ll be hanging out at MOFU from Noon until 10pm, so, if you are in town, please stop by to say hi, get a hug or a high five, and toast to the last 20 years and next 20 to come.

All Alums (class of 2018 too!), Faculty, Staff, Friends, Family and the BME Community are encouraged to come out on May 19 if you are in town!
Health & Happiness for All
Andrew

Pragmatic Yoga

Last week I was having dinner with a few old business partners and discussing some of the things we are up to these days.  They included design thinking, nondualism, and yoga.

At one point, Tony said, as he typically does: “OK, all this stuff is great.  But how are you applying this to everyday life?”

I was the one talking about Yoga, so, I started to rattle off some benefits:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Reduced back and joint pain
  • Breathing calmly in stressful situations

That last one lead into nondualism, which Tony has been exploring lately.  I guess I have been also.  Javier?  Well, he’s working for a design firm, and, I’ve been looking more into design thinking.  So, they all started to come together.

It was a fun evening catching up with Javier and Tony.  But that night, I had a hard time falling asleep, reflecting that my thoughts on pragmatism around yoga were weak.

Tony had a great example on pragmatic nondualism.  It’s a personal story, so, I’m not going to share it.  But the bottom line is, Tony truly took an abstract concept and used it to make life better.  Wham!  That’s nondualistic thinking right there?

Anyways, my answers were weak.  That’s what was keeping me up.

First, I started to explore this word: “pragmatic

Google seems to think it means, “dealing with things sensibly and realistically…

I think that was part of my hangup…  That this idea of being pragmatic meant to think in terms of reality.  I mean; we were eating at a Latin-Asian Fusion Cuisine / Tequila & Sake Bar in Chapel Hill.  That in and of itself was unrealistic…, but, it was still applicable to everyday life.

The bottom line is this: I’m of the opinion that totally unrealistic ideas can be part of an equation to usefulness in everyday life.  This notion is explored in detail in a Forbes / Tech post by Greg Satell: “How The Impossible Becomes Possible“.

As it turns out, the Latin and Greek roots of the word “pragmatism” stem from knowledge of the law and doing deeds.  BINGO!  Recall my post on “collaboration” in which the word “law” with respect to science was discussed.

Laws are what we use to describe scientific explorations that have been boiled down into what can be made useful.  We might not know what light is (wave? particle? both?), but we can boil light down to something useful (my students will get that one).

This definition of pragmatism felt better.  This notion that things we don’t fully understand (physics) can be useful (engineering).  Again, nondualism; right there.

Phew!  OK.  Now back to the deal with my response to Pragmatic Yoga being a weak one.

How is Yoga useful to everyday life, more than just making my body feel good and keeping calm under pressure?

There’s this part of Yoga were I’ve learned to be intense in one part of my body (maybe I’m standing on one leg and that’s really hard), while being totally relaxed in another part of my body (like keeping my shoulders loose).  Or, maybe it has to do with some vigorous flow, normally sending me into hyperventilation, but instead, I’m keeping my breathing at a calm, relaxed pace.

In every day life, we have fires burning all around us that need attention.  Fires burning around our jobs, our homes, our personal lives including friends, lovers, and family members.  From the bills we need to pay to the deadlines for work and the assignment at school; maybe we fail to see what’s really important and miss a child’s game or recital; or miss date night with our spouse.

I feel like sometimes, I may be stressed about everything.

Other times, I’m like The Dude, and just chill out, about everything.

Yoga.  How that applies to everyday life for me?  It’s about being able to mentally balance the fires.  It’s about attending to the important fires with great effort, while chilling out about the not so important ones.  That’s my answer Tony.

I would love to hear your points and counterpoints on this topic in the discussion section.

Health & Happiness for All
Andrew

What is Innovation? Part 2

In this two part blog series, I’m exploring the definition of “innovation” in an effort to bring clarity to a word that has been overused and genericized.

In Part 1, innovation was defined as increasing benefits and/or reducing costs.  The blog went on to explore in detail the top half of this innovation equation.  In this part, the exploration will move to the denominator:

What is cost?

To explore (what is cost), I came to the idiom: at all costs

What are all these costs?

  • Lives lost in war?  The effort to win the war?
  • Resources to achieve a goal?  The effort to reach that goal?
  • Money spent?  The effort to earn that money?

Effort

Indeed, (at all costs) can be translated to (regardless of effort).  It is logical that cost is relative to effort which itself can be defined as energy spent on work.

We work … to make money … to buy a product.  Logical.

But I’m hung up on this notion that if our goal is to reduce cost, it is suggesting we reduce effort?  Not logical.

Lessons learned from baseball include:
“Control what you can control: attitude and effort.”

I explored attitude and effort a few weeks ago in a blog post on caring and courage.  The idea of giving less effort just didn’t sit right with me when first meditating on this part of innovation.

But if attitude and effort are two things we can control…, what is control anyway?

If we give maximum effort all the time, is that really controlling effort?  Is the foot on the gas pedal all the way down controlling the car?  Or is that car out of control?  Interesting.

What is the control of attitude and effort?

Is this to mean we have choice of attitude and effort?  What are we asking the baseball player to do here?  Choose a “good” attitude.  Choose an effort.

Choose an effort?  What effort?  Full effort?

It feels right to consider that the choice in attitude is to choose a “good” or a “bad” attitude.  Choosing a good attitude is one that promotes conditions for health.  This was defined as “caring” in part 1 of this blog.

This is making sense, but now I’m back on benefits, quality, what is good, and health.

This is an exploration of cost… of effort.

What effort are we choosing?  Is there good and bad effort?

In the book, The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement;  author Eliyahu M. Goldratt takes us to the floor of a manufacturing plant and explores many concepts, including a notion that “always working” is not the most efficient way to run a business.  The concept is resisted by the characters in the book, rightfully so, as it is not intuitive.

The Goal masterfully uses the scientific method and Socratic thinking to teach lean manufacturing.  Among the many lessons learned is that (always working) is not a solution to (improve plant efficiency).

If we have a choice in effort, is the effort we put forth an effort that is well thought out?  Scientifically?  Socratically?  Thoughtfully?

Aha.  This is the old debate of “working hard” versus “working smart.”

Cost.  Effort.  Work.

The relationships of these make sense.  However, even after reading The Goal, the notion of minimizing effort is still not sitting right.

I need to zoom back out to the big picture: innovation

There’s an example I’ve used in class for years about a swimmer at the beach.  The undertow is bad and they’ve drifted far off shore and suddenly realize they need to get back.  This can be a scary situation.

As the lesson goes, I ask the students, “what is smarter, putting your head down and swimming towards shore as vigorously as possible, only coming up for air when you need it?  OR, slowing down, thinking, and looking at the waves?”

Swim in with the waves.  Rest between waves.  Swim smart.

Work hard with the waves.  Take breaks.  Observe.  Be thoughtful about your return to shore…  your return to conditions favorable for health.

BOOM!

It’s not to minimize effort…, but to maximize effort.  Using ALL of your effort can be wasteful, if some of your effort is used without the waves.

Work Hard AND Work Smart (with the waves).

So, what is innovation?

Innovation is increasing benefits over reducing cost.  This is value based care.

Innovation is improving conditions favorable for health and maximizing effort.  It is working towards (what is good) through (hard AND smart work).

Innovation is to be caring and thoughtful.

Would love to hear your feedback on this exploration of innovation.

Health and Happiness for All
Andrew

 

What is Innovation? Part 1

For the past twelve years, my academic scholarship has been primarily focused on teaching a process of innovation.  This is an area of great interest and philosophical debate.  As a process, innovation can be described in stages of product design starting with an initial investigation, then a definition phase, brainstorming phase, and so on, until a final execution phase.  In various courses, I’ve broken down these stages into 3, 4 or 5 steps, and used catchy terms like Stanford Biodesign’s “Identify, Invent, Implement” process.

From a process perspective, whether it’s (identify, invent, implement) or current favorite (discover, describe, develop, deliver): the basis of this “innovation” process is not a secret.

That being said, the term “innovation” itself has been overused and become so generic, its meaning has been lost.  I wish to find it.  The following two blog post series is an exploration of this word “innovation” in search for a useful definition, for clarity, and for enlightenment.

What is Innovation?

My favorite definition to date comes from Scott Burleson, friend and innovation expert at The AIM Institute.  Scott describes innovation as, “an improvement in value” and then further defines value as benefits over cost.

(innovation) = (value increase) = (benefits) / (costs)

To explore this topic further, I’m going to dive deep into the definitions of each of these words proposed by Scott.  In part 1, the focus is on “benefits.”

What is benefits?

The root of the word benefit comes from the Latin bene facere  which translates to ‘do good (to).’

The book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig explores the concept of “good” in great detail by examining the word “quality.”  In this fantastic journey of quality, Pirsig makes a case that it is intrinsic, existing in both the romantic and classical thought processes.  Indeed, the book explores quality as The Buddha, as Tao, and as what is good.

Quality as what is good feels like common sense to a professor who has to assign grades by (quality of work) or (what is good work).  And the notion proposed by Pirsig that it exists in both romantic and classical thought processes is key to the topic of assigning grades to students in the arts as well as the sciences.  This can further be extended to commercial innovation in the sense of both psychology and economics; often considered two unique domains.  Tying together emotional and rational purchase decisions can be explored further in its own right.

Benefits. Quality. What is Good.

What is good?

What is good work in an engineering class versus what is good work in a poetry class may seem subjective.  What is good flavor to one person might not be good flavor to another person.  The notion that “good” is subjective is a complicated road to go down, because it suggests that good is whatever you like it to be.  If that were the case, how then can grades be assigned by any other means than a subjective measure of good???

What if we define “good” another way?

I’m biased towards the areas of “Health Innovation, Education, and Art” as called out in the description of DiMeo (dot) info.

So, I’m going to propose a definition of “good” as:
conditions favorable for health

What are conditions favorable for health?

For this, I’ll draw from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and consider our most basic needs such as air, water, food, and shelter.

It is a natural instinct to seek conditions favorable for health for all living things.  From bacteria, which “like” conditions such as warmth and moisture, to a stray cat that might like to be under a parked car with a warm engine and safe from the falling rain.  These would be “good” conditions for bacteria or a cat (not that I’m comparing the two).

So far I’m building a hypothesis that:

(benefits) = (what is good) = (conditions favorable for health)

Looking back to Scott’s original definition of innovation as benefits over costs, then a new proposed definition might look like this:

(innovation) = (value increase) = (conditions favorable for health) / (costs)

Indeed, this is the thought process at the root of our nation’s focus on value-based care as defined by CMS.  This topic is explored in detail by organizations such as Deloitte and Optum.

If this formula is correct, then it is not enough just to have conditions favorable for health, but rather, to promote such conditions.  After all, if innovation is indeed a process; a process is active, not static.

Innovation is a process of improving health and reducing costs.

What is a process of improving health?

Caring.  To Care.

But this is just the top half of the equation.

Today the focus was on benefits and related that to quality, what is good, conditions for health, and ultimately the act of caring.

In part 2, I’ll begin to explore the bottom half of the equation: costs.

Your thoughts on the topic are encouraged in the discussion below.

Health & Happiness for All
Andrew

 

Where do you go in Downtown Raleigh?

I guess it started when I moved from the burbs to Cameron Village in 2014.  What seemed like a confusing journey to find parking turned into a walk or bicycle ride, enjoying all that Raleigh had to offer from live music to breweries, from restaurants to art.

For me, this was like coming home.  I grew up in Rutherford, NJ with a view of NYC, a short bus ride away…, and walking to the butcher, baker, and (not the candle stick maker), post office.  As a kid, I rode my bicycle all over town, walked to the train station to go to High School at Saint Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, and took the Path Train from Hoboken into the city, making my way up to Flushing Meadows to go see the Mets at Shea Stadium.

A few years ago, I moved with soon to be wife and Gus to the South Park neighborhood in Raleigh.  Whether it is friends or family coming from out of town for a party or a visit, colleagues coming to the convention center for a conference, or meeting strangers (more like friends I don’t know), like Kelly & Dale over beers at Trophy Maywood…, I’m hearing a lot of this:

“Where do you go in Downtown Raleigh?”

It just happened again on Wednesday evening at Lynwood Brewing Concern where I met up with a couple of old business partners to shoot the breeze, or, as we’re calling it, “Beer Summit.”

What are your favorite restaurants in Downtown Raleigh?  Where do you like to catch some live music, drink a beer, or buy a loaf of bread?  Where do you go for comedy acts, art displays, and late night cocktails?

If you want to see some of my favorites, check out the map and page dedicated to this topic here.

But I want to hear from you.  Why?  Well, for one, Kelly and Dale asked if they could leave comments…, and so, I promised them I’d write this post.

Health & Happiness for All
Andrew

Can Caring Build Courage?

A few years ago I was going through a particularly stressful time.  It must have showed, because during class, one of my students rose her hand and asked a question: “Dr. DiMeo, do you know how stress can save your life?”

Minutes later; the whole class was watching a TED Talk she shared with me, as an answer to her own (rhetorical) question:
How to make stress your friend by Kelly McGonigal

If you have 15 minutes, take it to watch Kelly get down to the science of how attitude towards stress is a life or death decision.  This attitude can capitalize on a natural biological response that encourages us to be more caring and to face challenges with courage.

Spring training is underway…  and with baseball on the mind, I’m recalling this morning a couple of coaching mantras:

  • Control what you can control
  • There’s two things you can control: Attitude and Effort
  • Look forward…, it’s about the next play

Maybe you hit a home run, extended your lead, relaxed and took the foot off the pedal…, only to find yourself falling behind later in the game.

Maybe you struck out, got frustrated, and made an error the next inning in the field.

These mantras in baseball are about not letting the past, whether good or bad experiences, impact the future.  We can’t control the past.  We also can’t control the future.  But what we can control is our attitude and effort, which could impact our next play…, impact the future.

Attitude Impacts Outcome

What might be intuitive to the mental game of baseball is what led to this morning’s aha moment.

I saw Kelly’s talk years ago…, and I believe it.  Our attitude towards stress has health, caring and courageous implications.

The aha moment  is the part where “Attitude” is one of those things we CAN control.  That, combined with the other thing we can control, “Effort” – gives us tools to choose, proactively, making our world a healthier and happier place for all.

Control what you can: Attitude and Effort

A student in a class choosing an attitude that stress is a healthy human response, took the effort to help another person.  She certainly changed my life forever.

Choosing an attitude that is positive…
Making efforts that are helpful…
…have a physiological effect on our body that is healthy, makes us more empathetic, more caring, and more courageous to meet life’s daily challenges, whether in baseball or in business; in school or social settings; and with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

Health & Happiness for All
Andrew