Just the other day I was telling my friend that one of my favorite innovations to date is the new Heinz ketchup packets. You know, the ones that you can choose between dipping or squeezing. The reason being that many people would never look at a condiment packet and think it needs reinventing much less take a second look at it at all. But there are always ways small and big that we can redefine what we take as a given. Most times the change is simple.
That’s exactly what the winning group of this year’s Zika Innovations challenge did. They took the simple approach. They created a system in which we can use social media to track and update people attending the Rio Olympics on the risks of Zika as well as to gather data on the spread of the disease. We currently take social media as a platform for interaction and connection. The winning group went beyond that and asked, why not use it as a platform to inform vulnerable populations?
I truly do believe that innovation, whether simple or complex, is the way to solve the world’s problems.
Simplicity might have been the winning ingredient in this year’s competition but the other approaches seen at the finals were also unique in their approach. I was so impressed at the variety of approaches I saw and the details students were able to come up with in such a short time frame. One team took a mathematical approach, which I had never seen before let alone would have even thought about. Challenges like these always bring out such interesting ideas and groups of people. I am always fascinated by the variety of solutions people come up with. I truly do believe that innovation, whether simple or complex, is the way to solve the world’s problems.
I remember my first challenge competition I was a part of as a freshman. It was such an exciting experience that allowed me to dive right into the space of social innovations. Last year I was able to help put together the Ebola Innovations challenge and now as a rising senior, I am also so humbled to see the growth of such innovation at Duke. I would highly recommend anyone at all interested, to sign up for future challenges and get their feet wet.