The Power of Diversity

We sat down with the AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors while they were in Washington D.C. for the AAAS Annual Meeting.  We spoke to each about the importance of invention, the impact of their work, and what it has been like to be an Invention Ambassador.  One of our most active Invention Ambassadors, Sanna Gaspard, spoke to us about the value of invention, the Invention Ambassador program, and diversity in and for invention. 

Sanna Gaspard

“When done responsibly, invention is able to take society to a higher level.”

Sanna Gaspard is the CEO and founder of Rubitection, a medical device company that’s developing an early diagnostic tool to support pressure bedsore prevention and management. She has been an Invention Ambassador since 2017 and currently holds US and international  patents for medical technologies. Sanna embodies an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit which she channels towards creating change in healthcare.
How does invention serve society?

Inventions are important to improving the world because without inventions we don’t have progress. Essentially inventions are the creation of something new that addresses an existing void or need, or improves efficiencies in existing systems. Inventions allows society to progress and move forward, when done responsibly, towards a better future. As advancements are made in science and math it provides an opportunity for new inventions that can address society’s needs, big or small.

If we don’t have inventors and new inventions, society would becomes stagnant and we essentially, from a technological standpoint, stop progressing. As a result there would be a decrease in the need for scientific discovery, scientific research or scientific investigation, where a lot of the progressive inventions originate and originate from a desire to solve a problem or answer a question. Without invention, I think society would progressively get more and more difficult as needs and problems would grow with population size, but solutions to those problems would not be created or brought to life. Without a focus on fixing problems and innovating, society is stuck.  

Why do you think diversity is important in invention?

I think it’s very important to have diverse viewpoints for everything, but especially invention. Having people from different environments and with different perspectives broadens insights and understandings of a problem and its associated consequences or ramifications. Having viewpoints from individuals from various backgrounds helps counteract the fact that any particular person’s viewpoint is based on their own limited experience. An individual can’t invoke an experience that they’ve never had to consider all the good and bad outcomes for another person or group of people with whom they don’t share a similar background. Even if you think you can, you’re leaving a lot of things out because it’s vicarious. This means inventing without a considering diverse viewpoints (women, men, immigrants, minorities, LGBQT, etc) results in an inferior solution that is at high risk of neglecting the viewpoints of the individuals not present. This can result in limited utility and adoption of invention resulting in limited success or impact. Invention or problem solving is about integrating the best ideas to solve a particular problem. If everyone has the same experience, there’s not room for new ideas to come through. Diversity should be a requirement for invention.

Another benefit of having different perspectives resulting from a diversity is that it can provide the necessary conflict required to innovate. Conflict, when used strategically, helps fosters engagement and challenges assumptions or bias to help innovators understand whether an idea makes sense for the larger population, and helps identify a broad spectrum of failure points to produce a resilient and robust innovation/invention.

From my perspective, diversity adds huge value to everything. If anyone is serious about inventioning a solution that would that will be widely successful, they should make their teams diverse; diverse in thought, diverse in background – including immigrants, including women, including people of color, including people from different economic backgrounds. Ultimately you want as many different representative viewpoints/people on the team as you can get.

Has being a AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador helped your career in anyway?

The AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador Program has helped my career because it has given me an opportunity to meet other innovators and entrepreneurs. The program connects me with people both within and outside of my space that I can get advice from and learn from their process. I’m also being exposed  to international business opportunities through various global entrepreneur summits, which is incredibly helpful in building my network and educating a wider audience about my innovation and efforts to commercialize them.

Most importantly being an Invention Ambassador has also added credibility and validation to the expertise level and quality of work. I’ve found that when I try to pitch myself, the first thing people do is Google you – they want to know if you’re real, if you’re credible and if they should continue talking to you. So being able to have the title of ‘AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador’ and having my bio on the Ambassador webpage is extremely beneficial from my perspective. When people ask for my bio I point them to my AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador page. Having that title adds a lot to initial interactions that I have with people – it seems to validate their willingness to want to work with me.

What is the value of having a like-minded network?

Often I find that my brain and way of thinking doesn’t work the same as the average person – which is a good thing for me! People often call me crazy, which I can never understand since I think I am normal. My brain is constantly problem solving, coming up with inventions and crazy ideas, sometimes outside of my control. When I became part of the Invention Ambassador Program I felt I just met a whole group of people whose brains work very similarly. Being around like-minded people frees you up to be more of yourself – which basically fosters more innovation and allows your brain be more creative. With the Invention Ambassadors and their network I feel like I’ve found my tribe. I’ve been looking for them everywhere but I finally found my people.

Being part of a like-minded network also has the benefit of being able to talk to people who are doing similar work, hearing about their process, learning how they built the support infrastructure to do their innovative work and being able to pick their brain for help in problems ranging from career strategy, network connection,  or even team building. It means that people are more willing to help each other and offer their personal network connections, allowing you to grow further. It’s a wonderful network of smart people who are willing to help and support each other. I am proud to be apart of this group.