In her book Insight Out, Stanford professor Tina Seelig explores how entrepreneurs worldwide have transformed their visions into reality. Analyzing several businesses, Seelig’s work examines the genesis of TeachAIDS as an organization.
Seelig captures how TeachAIDS drove experimentation with inspiration to develop effective products and processes alike. Motivated by the misconceptions about HIV in India, TeachAIDS tested over 500 iterations of its product, including storyboards, scripts, animation clips, with a team of interdisciplinary Stanford experts. The rigor of developing the materials only intensified when it came time to compose the cross-cultural translations — each line had to be translated back-and-forth numerous times to ensure that the animations’ messages would be culturally sensitive, yet unambiguous. Finally, once the research elements were confirmed, TeachAIDS introduced its interactive materials to scores of celebrities, readjusting engagement strategies with each unique partnership. This network funneled TeachAIDS materials through every avenue of society, especially those that needed them the most.
To further illustrate the importance of experimentation within the greater cycle of invention, Seelig outlines the birth of the non-profit Khan Academy, a free online learning platform used by an average of 12 million people each month. Like the staff at TeachAIDS, Khan Academy founder Sal Khan also underwent a series of experiments to finesse both his pedagogical and technical approach to creating educational materials, Seelig writes. And, like TeachAIDS founder Piya Sorcar, Khan catalyzed his creativity with a larger motivation: teaching in a new way, to more people than ever before.
This “feed-forward loop” of motivation fueling experimentation also appeared in the creation of Asana, an application that teams and businesses can use to track their progress. Co-founder Justin Rosenstein discovered the need for efficient collaboration within a large, diverse team during his time working at Facebook. Rosenstein allowed this inspiration to power experiments he conducted with his co-workers, experiments that ultimately resulted in the creation of a streamlined communication platform that was first taken up by the entire company. Ultimately, this platform became Asana.
These products have achieved success because they align so neatly with the needs of their users. However, the inventive process that their creators invested in was often anything but neat.
Other publications that feature TeachAIDS include Made with Creative Commons by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, The Startup Star by Matt Cook and Jon Zhang, and Health Communication in the New Media Landscape.