Dr. Snow: The First Innovator

Think Differently

Part of being innovative is the ability to think differently about how to solve problems. History is full of these people - some of the most famous being Leonardo DaVinci, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs. In our study of innovation, we became interested in an 18th-century doctor in London, England who decided to solve an epidemic that was killing people by the thousands. But in order to solve this problem, he needed to "think differently."

Meet Dr. John Snow

In 1852, Dr. John Snow lost a family member to a mysterious disease that was killing Londoners by the thousands - and he wanted to do something about it. As you might expect, medicine at that time was very primitive and the idea of germ theory and public health initiatives didn't exist. No one had a good idea about how to deal with plagues and other fatal outbreaks of diseases. The prevailing theory in 1852 was that this epidemic was caused by something in the air and this is where many other doctors at that time were focusing their efforts. But Dr. Snow, on a hunch, thought it might be something else.

Finding an Innovative Solution

Most affected by this outbreak was an area of London called the SOHO district and Dr. Snow partnered with a local priest named Rev. Henry Whitehead because he was very familiar with the families in the area who were dying. Together they decided to research, interview, and gather data on each person who had died - to study their location, their living conditions, and their daily lives. As Dr. Snow gathered this data, he created a map to help him visualize the problem and hopefully discover a pattern.

Within a few months, Dr. Snow determined that most of the deaths were occurring near a particular water source that was known for having the best tasting water in the entire SOHO district. Armed with this information, Dr. Snow and Rev. Whitehead approached the SOHO district leaders and were able to get the suspected well shut down. Within two weeks, people in the area stopped getting sick and dying.

"Think Differently" at Kenco

This innovative and fresh approach to solving problems helped to identify what we now know today as Cholera - a fast-acting water born disease that has all but been eradicated thanks to Dr. Snow's "think differently" approach to solving problems. Like Dr. Snow, Kenco Innovation Labs is challenging our own company to "think differently" about problems facing the 3PL, warehousing, and transportation industries.