From biotech to branding, the biggest discoveries start with an open mind.
When we think about breakthroughs, we like to think about excitement and hope. A sense of accomplishment. Maybe even a spot in the history books.
But the path toward groundbreaking discoveries usually doesn’t feel anything like that. More often, making progress toward a breakthrough looks more like chaos. Unforeseen challenges. Perseverance. There are no breakthroughs without serious challenges to break through.
That holds true whether we’re talking about biotechnology or branding — and often, the obstacles we encounter push us even further. They make us question our assumptions and get closer to the truth. When we get creative and reconsider our approach, we can wind up stumbling onto a discovery that’s even better than what we thought we were looking for.
For example, some of the biggest breakthroughs in the realm of health science only happened because someone saw potential in the unexpected:
In 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was experimenting with cathode ray tubes and electrical currents when he noticed a piece of radioactive material glowing across the room. Inspiration struck: he used it to invent the first X-ray.
In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming noticed that one of his Petri dishes was contaminated with mold. But then he saw the good news: that mold had stopped bacteria from spreading. That observation led him to develop penicillin.
In 1956, Wilson Greatbatch was building equipment to record the sounds of the heart when he realized that his creation gave off a rhythmic electrical pulse, much like the human heart. He used that discovery to invent the internal pacemaker.
In the race to make progress and get a leg up on the competition, many of today’s tech companies embrace the philosophy of “Move fast. Break things.” But in the biotech world, the same mentality usually doesn’t apply. It’s less tempting to move fast and break things when the “things” at stake include people’s well-being, body parts, and lives. In those cases, it takes a more cautious approach to make breakthroughs: one that’s rooted in research, careful trials, and extensive analysis.
Bringing a brand to life can be a bit like that.
Working with brands takes care, whether we’re working on a rebranding project or building one from scratch. The stakes are high, because customer trust and relationships keep brands alive. So we use our own scientific method to guide our approach:
Research isn’t just for the lab. Positioning ourselves to make a breakthrough takes preparation. We kick off new projects by developing a deep understanding of the audience, business, goals, and the marketplace that we’re working with. It all adds up to a solid foundation for our work.
This is when we start experimenting. We use our Discovery findings as a jumping-off point for design thinking and brainstorming, and let ideas flow without judgment. Does that anything-goes mentality sometimes take us in strange directions? You bet. But often, unexpected ideas spark our biggest “Aha!” moments and lead to creative breakthroughs.
Great ideas deserve great execution. While we make breakthroughs during Exploration, we perfect them during Refinement. This is when we fine-tune our work, get feedback, and fine-tune it again. And then again. It’s when we sweat the details, embrace business sense, and let logic take the lead, making sure everything supports our original goals.
At last, we put all the pieces together and bring the project to life. That can mean coding a website, compiling a brand style guide, editing a video, printing marketing collateral, and anything else it takes to bring our work into the real world.
It’s the moment we’ve all been working towards: when the site goes live, the brand identity is implemented, or new designs see the light of day. Sometimes all three at once. That’s why we rely on our process — so when we release a new project into the real world, we can all stand behind it with confidence.
No matter what we’re working on, we’ve found that keeping an open mind is a crucial part of making creative progress. That’s where the best (and weirdest… and funniest) ideas come from. Ideas that make our work better, and our lives more enjoyable. Sometimes, questioning our own habits leads us to a clearer path, but only when we remain curious and help each other persevere. It’s the difference between creating “good” work and creating work that breaks through.