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The Story of Doug Dietz: Creative Confidence in the MRI Suite

A creative mindset can be a powerful force for looking beyond the status quo.

Photo of David Kelley
11 17

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One of my favorite stories of creative confidence is a story from Doug Dietz, a designer at GE Healthcare. A few years ago, he wrapped up a project working on a brand new, beautiful MRI machine. One day while he was proudly waiting to see his design live in the hospital, he encountered a young patient in the hallway heading towards the scan room with her parents. She was clearly terrified, tears rolling down her face. At the sight of the young girl, the MRI technician instantly called for the anesthesiologist. 

This moment changed his perspective forever and he knew he had to make a change. He enrolled in an executive education course at Stanford's d.school and learned how to approach the challenge from a human-centered design perspective that would ultimately help him make MRIs less terrifying for children. This workshop is what ignited Doug's creative confidence. 

Doug knew he wouldn't be able to secure significant funding to redesign an MRI machine from scratch, so he focused on the experience instead. He and his team transformed the MRI machine into a kid's adventure story with the patient starring in the lead role. Doug and his team applied colorful decals to the outside of the machine and on every surface of the room, covering the equipment, floor, ceilings and walls. They also created a script for the technician to lead their patients through the adventure.

Some of the prototypes included a pirate ship — a captain's wheel surrounding the opening of the chamber made the area feel less claustrophobic, where the patient gets to pick a treasure from the pirate's chest at the end. And another — a space ship — the banging of the machine simulating the shuttle shifting into "hypermode." With these new designs and others, the number of patients needing sedation decreased dramatically. Patients were happier. Hospitals were happier. His greatest achievement however was when a little girl once asked her mom after the scan: "can we come back tomorrow?" 

Approach a problem with a creative mindset like Doug did, and so many new opportunities present themselves.

You'll find this story and many others in ​my ​and my brother's new book, Creative Confidence. Thank you for joining us on this adventure!

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Photo of Ashish

"When you design with a purpose, good things will happen." What an apt and a powerful statement that is. In fact, if we try to search around for some of the most effective design models, then we can clearly see that these models were backed by a much larger picture, with a greater purpose for good.

At this thought, my mind tickles with a thought. In order to build creative confidence in younger people it is important to show them the bigger picture, make them realize the importance of the accomplishment they will achieve through building this skill. They should be able to picture it and feel good for the difference they can bring about.

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