My conversation with Stanford Biodesign 2020-2021 Innovation Fellows 

COVID-19 changed everything, this we know is true.  

Some things hoped for last year – events, workshops and gatherings that were part of my typical year – are simply gone. 

Some things became virtual- like coaching start ups with SXSW and innovation bootcamp with the next crew of UCLA healthtech innovators.  Some things simply shifted.  Scott Pantel’s Life Science Intelligence Emerging Medtech Summit shifted from its usual spot a few weeks after the bluster of JP Morgan to next month.  My annual meet up with the Stanford BioDesign Innovation Fellows – usually in August at the beginning of the program – happened just this week. 

I enjoyed hearing more about the experiences of the Innovation Fellows while also sharing more about the origins of the materials developed on my A Matter of Innovation blog.  

Reflecting on my conversation with the Fellows, I thought it would be good to gather up and share my closing thoughts. Since they are a mere two months from the end of the program, I directed my closing thoughts around the importance of perspective.  My thoughts on this focus were first introduced in 2017 at NASA’s Cross Industry Innovation Summit   To address the challenges of maintaining perspective, I developed a framework I call the Roundabout of Innovation.  The Roundabout of Innovation ( is designed to identify, develop and enhance more meaningful perspectives.  Once developed, these perspectives are communicated to inspire and guide the work of individual entrepreneurs, teams, companies and communities.  Importantly, these completed roundabout frameworks become a touchstone to bring clarity and transparency to the wide range of issues facing entrepreneurs on the path of bringing ideas to life at scale.  

The frame is called the Roundabout of Innovation for the simple reason that, well … it is a roundabout.  The objective is in the center and the various lanes directed towards the center represent the different facets of perspective maintained as the team moves forward. Who is on Design Avenue? What is coming at you from Budget Boulevard? A completed Roundabout of Innovation is also a powerful tool enabling transparency for yourself, your team and your investors.  The Roundabout of Innovation gives a clear vision of what’s now, what’s new, and what’s next. And continually revisiting the roundabout will assure that you are all on the same track moving forward.

I left the Fellows with a combination that included three different but interrelated roundabouts for understanding and answering three key questions facing every entrepreneurial endeavor:

What are you innovating?

What is your path?

How will you protect what you innovate as you go along your path?

I’ve done a few talks and presentations on the idea of the Roundabout and its useful application to each stage of challenges you may encounter along your way:

To get at the heart of where you are innovating, you can consider the issues and questions posed in the Drucker Roundabout. 

To get at the heart of your path, you may reflect on the questions and issues posed in the Startup Roundabout. 

To get at the core of protecting your innovation, you may reflect on the IP Roundabout. 

From my time in the military I have seen firsthand how the use of a common framework – a common mission – ensures that your team is better prepared to address challenges and overcome obstacles encountered on the entrepreneurial journey.

I’d love to hear how you or your team found meaning or results by applying a Roundabout of Innovation to your entrepreneurial journey.

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