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Matt Nuccio. "In Inventive Revolution."

Toy & Family Entertainment, Oct. 2014

Last year, during our family vacation, we brought our two sons to a nice restaurant for my wife’s birthday. We knew it was a gamble, our young boys are generally well-behaved in public so we decided to take the risk. The restaurant was scenic and quiet. It was definitely more of a couples cove opposed to the typical family joints that our boys are accustomed to. Their past dining experiences tended towards “Here are some crayons, now go color the pictures on the placemat” sort of places. After we were seated I was a bit concerned how quiet the place was. I could clearly hear people talking softly at the tables on either side of us.

To our left a young couple spoke in French and to our right an older couple was discussing medical procedures. During our dinner I would hear tid bits of both of conversations and while I had no clue what the french couple were discussing, I couldn't help but hear the older couple talking about insulin. As our dinner ended the older woman leaned over and complimented us on how well behaved our boys were and we started some small talk. My wife then asked if they either of them are diabetics explaining that we couldn't help but hear them discussing insulin as it had become a keyword in our household. We went on to explain that our 3 year old had been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes one year earlier. The gentlemen then asked if he was on an insulin pump. After we relayed that he was, the man stated that he was the person who invented it.

For those who do not know, an insulin pump is an electrocnic device that monitors and administers insulin. It is a major medical breakthrough and a multi-billion dollar industry. Before this pump, insulin-dependent diabetics had to use hypodermic needles to control their blood sugar. 

We spent a considerable amount of time speaking with the couple, Claudette and Alfred Mann. They were both very charming. Alfred, finding out that I, too, was an inventor, went on to tell me of his other medical inventions such as a cochlear implant that restores hearing and an insulin inhaler. Now in his late 80's and a billionaire twice over, he still continues to invent devices that revolutionize medicine.

What I found most interesting about Alfred was that he was working to cure major medical problems with technology as oppose to medication. In an industry where the common road is to pump people full of drugs he was taking an alternative route. Part of his genius is in taking roads less-traveled.

You ask how all of this relates to our industry. The real question is "How can we as individuals and an industry take the blinders off?" While we have had some dramatic new toys and entertainment devices over the last few years, a large portion of the toy manufacturing and retailing segments tend to want to “play it safe " by sticking to old formulas , knocking off existing products with cheaper versions in order to capture shelf space. There is reluctance to experiment with inventive ways of presenting consumers with new and better product. Following this formula only keeps our industry in a malaise. To bring back excitement we have take a lesson from Alfred Mann. Think outside of the box and go against the flow. 

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