You may not have heard about the man called Gunpei Yokoi but I am sure you would have had the opportunity to see or use his product called the Nintendo. Gunpei Yokoi was a long time employee of the Japanese conglomerate Nintendo and the creator of Game and Watch and Gameboy and  many popular video Games which have sold millions of units and is still very popular among young people.

I felt there is a lot of similarities between Ophthalmology and the Gaming  Industry which are both technology oriented and we always believe costly and latest technology is always the best.

This is how Gunpei describes Nintendo's core philosophy " The Nintendo way of adapting technology is not to look at state of the art  but to utilize mature technology that can be mass produced cheaply"  He then articulates the  ideology of " Lateral thinking with Withered Technology" . Withered technology does not mean old technology but it refers to a seasoned and mature technology that is well understood. Lateral thinking refers to finding new ways to use such technology. Yokoi believes that expensive cutting edge technology can get in the way of developing a new product. There is no question that technological advances are important, but in many fields the emphasis on technology is made so much that the products get difficult to develop and when it gets developed it becomes un affordable to majority of the population. I am sure you can relate this point to many technologies in Ophthalmology such as the Femto Laser Cataract surgery , Angio OCT or even the regular OCT is unaffordable to majority of Ophthalmologists in India.

Lets get back to Gunpei, while he was travelling a train- he observed a youngster meddling with his calculator , this gave him the idea to develop a hand held gaming device which can be used during commute. The Nintendo Game and Watch was developed based on this philosophy.  Gunpei applied his lateral thinking to utilise the allready existing calculator, LCD display and semi conductor technology to develop the handheld game and watch video game which went on to sell millions of copies since it was launched.  The lateral thinking was to use the Original and allready existing technology to a new market. The Gameboy and NES was developed with the same philosophy.  Gunpeis refusal to adopt a color display for the Gameboy in favour of long battery life is cited as the main reason it prevailed against other game makers such as SEGA and Atari which made color display video games with very less battery life.

Focused Frogs and Visionary Birds

For every innovation to occur we need two types of people- Vertical thinking specialists ( Screen designers, Semiconductor experts and so on in this case) and Lateral thinking generalists such as Gunpei. Only when both these people collaborate innovations do happen. Eminent physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson styled it this way- " We need both focused frogs and and visionary birds"  , Birds fly high in the air and survey broad vistas , they delight in concepts that unify our thinking and bring together diverse problems from different part of the landscape, Frogs live in the mud below and see only the flowers that grow nearby, they delight in the details of particular objects and they solve problems one at a time.  Dyson labelled himself a frog but contended " Its stupid to claim that birds are better than frogs because they see father or Frogs are better than birds since they see deeper" The world is both broad and deep- we need both birds and frogs to solve problems.  Dyson's concern was that the world is producing too much of frogs trained in a narrow specialty and unable to change as science itself changes. We also need birds such as Gunpei who can unify the thinking of specialists and apply lateral thinking to solve problems .

Lateral Thinking and Ophthalmology Products

So getting back to the main point- Withered technology is not old technology but seasoned technology which is proven - and can be cheaper. We applied this philosophy to our Ophthall range of products - since what we understood from expensive technology from abroad is that most of the Indian Ophthalmologists or patients could not afford it.  For example in the surgical microscope market, 95% of the market could only afford the basic product of Multinational companies which was boring and feature less. Same applies to other products also in Ophthalmology such as Lasers, Scans and OCTs.  As a generalist who understood the problem we went to specialists in manufacturing and gave them the requirements and got products such as our Ophthall Microscopes which we were able to provide at a very fraction of cost and loaded with features which are available only in higher end microscopes. The prism technology which was long existing to enhance the red glow in surgical microscopes but were only available in higher end products and the tiltable optics type of technologies were incorporated to provide a economical product to Indian Doctors.  Our quest continues as we continue to apply Lateral thinking with Withered technology to get more products such as A-scan, Slit Lamps and OCTs soon.

Acknowledgements to " The Range" Book by David Epstein

You may reach me on whats app to give your feedback on the blog or to know more about Ophthall Product Innovations

Dr Senthil +919840324333

For more info on Ophthall Products log on to