Recent graduate, Caroline Portoghese, is a shining example of putting her MBA skills to work in order to make a significant social impact. On April 25, Caroline will attend the Annual TRUST Forum, where she has been nominated to receive the Women’s Health Trust Award due to her recent work to help patients with MS and ALS.
“For people with progressive neurological disorders such as ALS or MS, effective equipment is sometimes not available or is expensive. Caroline consulted with a local engineering team and was the principal investigator through the University of Minnesota/Fairview to develop a Scalable, Modular, Accessible, Robotic Technology (SMART) in an innovative manner. It was supported by a NIH grant and was recognized by the International Seating Symposium.”
Being nominated for this prestigious Women’s Health Leadership TRUST award is a true reflection of Caroline’s dedication to making a difference in the healthcare industry. St. Kate’s MBA recently visited with Caroline to get a better understanding of the research she’s done, and how she was able to accomplish such great work. She discussed two key factors that played an integral role in making progress towards revolutionary innovation.
Networking & Collaboration
Networking. That word alone may likely cause the following side effects: nausea, sweating of the hands, inability to structure sentences, and the like. If you are self-diagnosed with this networking fear, continue reading while focusing on taking deep, slow breaths.
Often, we find it easier – and maybe even halfway enjoyable – to network and socialize with other individuals that work within our industry or field of work. They “get” us, which makes conversation flow much more seamlessly. This type of networking, however, seldom leads to “outside the box” thinking, which is the fundamental ingredient for creating innovative ideas. Conscious of this concept, Caroline was able to make incremental change in her industry through “idea networking,” which is done in order to, “build a bridge into a different area of knowledge by interacting with someone with whom you, or people within your primary social networks, typically to not interact” (Jeff Dyer, The Innovator’s DNA).
Caroline, an Occupational Therapist, worked to develop relationships with a diverse group of people ranging from scientists and researchers to engineers in order to see the opportunity at hand from many different backgrounds and points of view. Because of this, the team was able to develop a groundbreaking robotic arm for wheelchairs that had a user-centered design in order to truly make the day-to-day tasks easier for individuals with MS and ALS.
Caroline explained, “The most exciting piece that we began to see in the early stages of our research was the ability to develop strategic questions and create prototypes early on because of the diverse group that we had. Our idea was quickly considered extremely innovative because we were able to bridge the gap that sometimes occurs when we don’t extend outside of our comfort zone of social networks. When you move past that fear of meeting someone different and are able to work together, that’s where the real magic is.”
So, what does this mean for the rest of us? Regardless of what you’re doing now, or what professional goals you may have, we can all make an effort to “idea network” starting today. Make a conscious effort to step outside of your industry “bubble” and meet someone with a completely different background and expertise than you have. Worst case scenario, you make a new friend. Best case scenario, you make an incremental social change. So, shake off those anxieties, and get networking!
Congratulations, Caroline, on receiving this prestigious nomination! Best of luck to you at the TRUST Forum!
Written by: Brittany Woitas, Marketing Consultant by day, St. Kate’s MBA student by night.