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Identifying the Right Problem is More than Halfway to a Solution

This week, the team spent some time talking to course advisors to gather feedback on our progress. We had been a little concerned about whether the product was technologically feasible, as well as if we were making progress at the right pace- should we have something developed at this point, and other similar questions had popped up. But in hearing from advisors, it seems like our work in identifying if information gaps on medical assets is a core problem plays a significant role in the timeline of product development. We also heard that it would be helpful to develop some sort of prototype, like a user interface screen, to continue testing with beneficiaries, as something visual would help them understand what we are thinking about as well. This week, we asked beneficiaries questions on how important usability with partner forces was, as well as offloading capabilities, and found that yes, both parts would be ideal.


Here is our current MVP below- we plan to continue testing it out with more beneficiary-focused interviews next week.

Interview #1: Dillon Buckner, Course Advisor

  • Often the military has a lot of information that may not be communicated clearly due to access restrictions or changing needs of data, so when investigating similar product(s) that already exist, try to think about all the ways the information from those similar products isn’t getting to the end user
  • To hear more specifically from your beneficiaries about their daily lives and responsibilities, try to understand their group’s mission as much as possible
  • Then, in these interviews, you can show them what you know- which will help them open up to you more about the challenges they have or the feedback on your product


Interview #2: Xinwen Zhang, General Surgeon in Algeria

  • Even in smaller cities, they have capabilities to address local diseases like malaria- and you will be able to trust them because these clinics/assets know how to deal with these diseases
  • The medical resources allocate regionally, according to the population and economy, so large national hospitals only exist in the big cities.
  • Some epidemic disease such as Brain Malaria may cause to death


Interview #3 Kevin Iskra, Former 18D

  • Since a big issue is information gaps over situations that develop and change rapidly, the product will need to address that and update information just as quickly to really add value
  • He would use this product in austere environments, if it did have regular information updates and could operate offline
  • Think about how this could help build relationships with local partners- often, they rely on money to get information
  • In planning for med evac, one challenge is communication with partners outside of the US military, so if this product could help streamline that chain of command it would save a lot of time/effort


Interview #4 Jon Andrews, Former 18D

  • Information management is the biggest issue with technological adaptation in military
  • Knowing there is a higher purpose that my adapting will serve helps me do things I don’t necessarily agree with/want to do
  • Communication is absolutely necessary with partner forces –– they don’t have prior knowledge of our work and what we can share is very limited by bureaucratic processes (any app should must work around that)


Interview #5: Yuyun Yang, Emergent Surgeon in Algeria

  • Pre-communication of Medic evaluation could save half hour for repetitive work
  • Mutant Malaria could be difficult to diagnose even with pre-communication efforts, so time is very important
  • Could not communicate with English but French- highlighting importance of additional languages or easy-to-understand pictures in the product


Interview #6: Dr. Jared Dunnmon, Course Advisor

  • Use the progress you have made so far to make a prototype to show beneficiaries- but you don’t need to have a finished, tangible product by the end
  • When you’ve identified a key core problem, you are more than halfway to the solution
  • With the product idea here, definitely doable from a technology standpoint, especially if something similar exists in the military system that you can improve or build on
  • Think about product life beyond the initial data scraping though- are there other ways to maintain it in addition to medics inputting information?


Interview #7: J.R. Caldwell, Civil Affairs Officer

  • When gathering medical information (i.e. for clinic assessment forms) you want to be inconspicuous, so think about that in product development
  • Think about adding a method to take pictures within the app- adds lot of value
  • Differences in medical information Civil Affairs might collect or value versus an 18D


Interview #8: Connor, 18D

  • Key role players in arranging for a med evac are: lead medic, asst. lead, platoon physician, SOFACCs, JCET medics
  • How can you get buy-in on this product and improve it so that it won’t take 10 years+ as usual military innovation does to get people using it?
  • Maybe running it or testing it in civilian usages before using it in the military because that helps speed up the process by half


Interview #9: Samuel, 18D

  • Interface looks nice and ties in with what gaps in information we might have on medical assets but you may want to test in civilian settings first
  • Think about how it might work with partner forces though, because a lot of what SF medics and SF missions deal with is building relationships with partner forces
  • Maybe these partner forces would be better at gathering information on medical assets because they are from that place, but they would need language capabilities or images to best input that information


Interview #10: Leo MacKay, SVP at Lockheed Martin

  • Preparing for military operations inherently introduces a dual-use system of products
  • Even in the processes, systems, and logistics you can get dual-use whether it’s planned or not, but one example of planned systems is disaster relief
  • It makes sense then to deploy certain technologies and innovations through the military because you know they will be maintained and they will be used (vs. Dept of State)
  • Dual Use and two sets of purpose- you need to consider that when you think about the size of the DoD budget and how that dual-use benefit is almost intangible with innovation that comes from or works with military needs


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