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Zen and the art of innovation

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Inventor Profile Part II: Noam Hadas

Zen and the art of innovation | Noam HadasNoam Hadas became fascinated with technology when he was two years old. He continued playing with electronics, chemistry, rocketry sets, and HAM radios up through his service in the Israeli Air Force as an electronics technician. Following graduate school, he felt he would “die” working in a cubicle, so he founded his own technology consultancy, InnoTech, partly because he realized he wasn’t cut out for corporate culture.

“It’s quite simple: I can’t handle people,” he explained. “I can’t understand them. I don’t understand what people mean if they are not completely clear. I only hear the text, not the subtext, so it’s very hard for me to navigate politics in a hierarchical situation.”

When told that he comes off as warm and personable, he jokes that he “fakes it very well.” He’s always spoken his mind throughout a career in innovation that has taught him a preferred method for brainstorming.

“I think the best way to conduct a brainstorming session is standing up and jumping up and down, in front of the machine in the factory or the whiteboard at the customer’s location, with all the customer’s technical people around to answer questions, kill stupid ideas, and immediately provide feedback to help grow smarter ones.”

Noam embodies the Israeli startup culture.

Hadas was one of the early players in the burgeoning field of sleep medicine. The company he founded together with the Technion Sleep Disorders center, S.L.P (brand name SleepSense), is the last independent sleep sensor supplier, with most of the competition having folded or been acquired. He has founded and is active in numerous other start-ups.

He realizes now that he would have done well to protect his early ideas with patents. But he’s not concerned about the “what-ifs.” Inventing for him isn’t about racking up patents or billion-dollar inventions. Open innovation provides the freedom of pure innovation; Xinova offers playgrounds, rather than cubicles.

“Inventing with Xinova is so much fun! It gives me an excuse and the motivation to explore a different technological field every day. One day I’m thinking motorcycle sensors, the next soft drink packages, and the third 3D printing.”

 

The human dimension

He’s happy to discuss failures and successes alike for the fundamental lessons both offer.

“Knowing technology is not enough. You must know people, too.”

To augment his people skills for innovation purposes, he got a Master’s in Industrial Design. The degree helped with the human interface aspects of his products’ design, “But it did not help me understand what people really want.”

His product autopsies revealed that even technologically elegant solutions failed for not addressing the real desires and needs of people–which often elude users themselves.  For example, the ignorance-is-bliss barrier to medical diagnosis prevents people from getting tested for severe disorders, even after being educated on the grave consequences of doing nothing. Those barriers extend to patient compliance.

CPAP, for instance, is effective at reducing events of apnea, a serious sleep disorder in which a person stops breathing periodically throughout sleep. But the CPAP system is so uncomfortable only a fraction of patients comply long-term with doctor’s orders. Hadas found that the single highest indicator of compliance wasn’t better technology or incrementally improved comfort; it was the empathy of the CPAP fitting technician —the degree to which he or she connects with the patient. Understanding people can literally make technology successful.

 

Coke can? It’s sheet metal!

When asked how he transitioned from a lifetime of sleep and medical innovation to everything Xinova has to offer, Hadas references the concept of “underlying form” in Robert M. Pirsig’s, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Pirsig corrects his biker buddy in the garage that the coke can being handed to him is not aluminum trash, but a good piece of sheet metal for fixing a motorcycle.

“If you apply the concept of VAT for a philosophy of living, you don’t do added value. Things are as they are. No symbols. No preconceptions. A book is a book: pieces of paper with ink on it. Clothes are just plant origin fibers processed to form continuous planes and used to hide the body.”

Hadas, likewise, thinks of all his experiences and interdisciplinary knowledge as sheet metal for solutions, free to be used outside their specified fields. He is a proud generalist. Science is science, technology is technology, and it is wonderful by any other name.

“I learn as much as I can about as much as I can. I find the gold is in the interfaces… I don’t know anything in depth. For that we have experts. But I believe I can see the whole picture, the rough sketches of how the design should be done from start to end.”

 

 

*Image from the book sales listing, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

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