The bravery to imagine a better world

One of the bravest things we’ve seen is a photograph of a designer on our team wearing surgical scrubs and sitting on a table in an operating room. It’s the kind of table used for surgical instruments, machines and other devices. The room is empty but it has the air of recent activity. The designer is sitting on the table, her laptop propped on her outstretched legs, as she leans into the screen, totally absorbed.

It’s an image of bravery not because our designer is in a room where surgeries take place; where moments before she was elbow to elbow with doctors, nurses and technicians who were buzzing around her and each other at top speed. Brave not because earlier there was a patient lying on an operating table at the center of the room, wholly vulnerable, life on the line.

Brave for another reason entirely — because she believes she can make a difference in that room. Because her confidence in her talent and experience and unique perspective gives her the power to change how those surgeons, nurses and technicians navigate in high-stakes spaces. She knows for sure that she will be able to offer insights and solutions that can streamline and improve the ways in which they work with each other, and increase the efficacy with which they care for their patient. Brave because she’s willing to try to help save lives.

Moment by moment we unpack and sift through a digital experience and look for interactions we can help improve. Opportunities we can expand. Whole processes we can elevate. In all the work we do, we are devising and designing the experience of a better world.

And that’s what bravery is — not an absence of fear but a prioritization of your goal over that fear. An understanding that the thing you want to achieve is more important than the thing that intimidates you.

As a matter of fact, we don’t know if our designer was afraid at all in that moment. Maybe fear was the last thing on her mind that day. But we do know she’s brave to think that using her skills as a critical, creative thinker can improve the way surgical patients are treated and the way doctors and nurses in hospitals perform under stress. She didn’t shy away from the challenge. She leapt for it.

In our business, we talk about design thinking, and what that really means is that we take something apart and put it together again, in a new and better way. Moment by moment we unpack and sift through a digital experience and look for interactions we can help improve. Opportunities we can expand. Whole processes we can elevate. In all the work we do, we are devising and designing the experience of a better world.

In the medical innovation space, Drawn has observed open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, to help heart and vascular surgeons create procedures and implement methods and improve overall institutional culture, all with one goal in mind: to help lower mortality rates among patients. The same team, including the designer in the photograph, is working with a Level One trauma hospital, to mitigate the real and terrifying occurrence of Retained Surgical Bodies. These are any foreign bodies, such as surgical gauze, left inside the patient after the operation is completed. It’s amazing to think that by literally standing over surgeons as they operate — and augmenting those at-the-moment assessments with immersion workshops and discovery sprints — our designers will be able to ideate, sketch and prototype their way to a solution, and one day help prevent the need for additional surgical procedures to remove left-behind items.

Medical innovation is just one area where our designers, technologists and strategists are courageous. Our teams are also facing one of the most heart-wrenching problems of our time: protecting children who struggle to survive in risk-filled environments.

Our work with the state of California placed our designers in a stark new role as they took on the responsibilities of social workers in the Child Welfare system. We discovered that California’s most vulnerable citizens, its children, are at the mercy of an antiquated Child Welfare management platform. The technology and processes can’t keep pace with the demand to maintain a safety net that ensures the health and long-term well-being of at-risk families. The system is manipulated and over-burdened, unable to meet the needs of social workers who find themselves trying to solve problems and create tools that the state can not provide.

As our work with the state began to unfold, we were on the ground, interacting with families in their homes and taking our findings back to our state counterparts. Imagine a designer, face-to-face with children and families in their living rooms, thinking, behaving and reacting as a social worker, in order to fully inhabit this space and visualize a better way to serve an underprivileged community of people who need and deserve our attention.

We often say our best work happens “out there” — in other words, we don’t hide behind the glass of a backlit screen. We don’t observe from afar. Our work is visceral and immediate. It’s personal to us, and to the people we’re helping. Our work with children and families is the purest evidence of that bold statement. Social work is demanding. The impoverishment and vulnerability of these families is frightening. Our designers are trained to be empathetic, but their training never covers coping mechanisms for watching the fabric of a family shredded by the removal of a child from his parents. And yet, our teams carry on. They apply research, ask questions and design solutions to improve the lives of people who exist in the balance between wellness and despair. We hope our work tips that balance in their favor.

And we think that’s brave. A willingness to envision change. An eagerness to try. An understanding that improvements are made in the world by the people who show up. Our designers are brave enough to imagine a better world, where dedicated people can work together more fluidly and as a result, do more good. Where their laudable intentions and heart-filled efforts are supported by digital moments that we can make better. Easier. More joyful. More human.