Last Thursday I gave a presentation to a group of design students from the University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam. They were visiting Berlin, and their teachers had picked out some companies for them to visit. They were interested in hearing about what we do and how we work.
I was very pleased with how it went, since the students seemed genuinely interested and the presentation worked well, even though it consisted of me talking, with a little input from the group, for about an hour with a small page of notes I’d made up quickly, and some pointing around the room. This informal setup was the least demanding on time, but also on nerves, since there’s not much risk of anything going wrong.
Presentations frighten me to death, generally mostly beforehand though, thankfully, and not so much during. This applies even when there is no obligation towards the audience, only satisfying their curiosity. It helps the nerves a great deal, once you’ve started talking, to know what you’re talking about, and in which order. Working at Third Wave, fortunately, makes it relatively easy to talk about working at Third Wave, since no speculation or research is required, but structure is more abstract, not as apparent. I spent about 15 minutes making keywords organized into categories on a piece of paper, since I’ve made the mistake before of thinking I could figure the structure out as I went along, and though this sometimes goes well, it’s not at all a safe bet. A structure is necessary for peace of mind, even if it’s very rudimentary and not beautifully thought out. People need to have boxes to put things in, and any boxes at all will do better than no boxes.
There were around 15 students and two teachers in our office, which is normally occupied by 5 people, so there weren’t enough chairs for us, and so everyone including myself was standing. If you can get a small audience to stand in front of you, it’s difficult for things to go awry, because you can see them at all times, and the feedback you get from their facial expressions will tell you whether you’re on the right track or not at any given moment. I found these cues very helpful, and guided what I elaborated on and what I didn’t.
I thank the students and their teachers for their unusually full attention, for being such gracious guests, despite the lack of seating, and for giving me an opportunity to practice presenting.
A thought on hospitals and technology
I had a couple doctor friends visiting this past weekend. They told me about their work in their respective hospitals in Britain, and I was a little surprised at the stumbling blocks they constantly have to work around, and how (seemingly) easily technology could solve their problems.
When beds in one hospital ward fill up, any additional patients are still considered part of that ward, but are moved to another ward where there is more space. A cardiology patient could then wind up on the orthopedic ward, for instance. This causes big problems, because these patients become a case of out of sight, out of mind. The orthopedic team wouldn’t be responsible for the cardiology patient, but cardiology might forget that the patient is there, or where he is. Of course, the hospital tried to put in screens that show where these patients are, but the information they draw on is not always up to date, and often unhelpful or confusing, and so the screens aren’t really used.
Several of their problems seemed to come from different groups of people not having access to the same set of information at any given time. Another major issue was how to make one department ultimately responsible for a patient when many departments were involved, since in particularly complex medical cases, it often happens that no department accepts responsibility for the patient, at least initially. These are problems all organizations encounter to one extent or another: making sure there is a project lead who checks on progress regularly, making sure everyone stays informed on progress and changes. Perhaps there are useful solutions designed for businesses that hospitals could adapt for their own use.
After a bit of googling, it seems hospitals are a huge area of research for IoT and sensor technology applications, so perhaps my friends’ woes are already on their way to being solved.