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[Omaha World-Herald] Pandemic Forced Nebraskans to Innovate

Doug Hannah

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June 12, 2022

The Omaha World-Herald recently published insight featuring Doug Hannah, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Innovation, discussing the rise of innovation due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers, clinicians, business people, and ordinary men and women were forced by the rise of the coronavirus to innovate in a variety of ways. As a result, new testing methods, treatments, and vaccines were developed in record time. Soon after the virus emerged, Doug started tracking the emergence of organizations across the country that were seeking to address pandemic needs. There are now 234 companies currently represented in his database, incorporating hundreds of innovations including UV disinfection and supply chain and human resources coordination. His research revealed that a major challenge was not only replacing high-demand personal protective equipment and devices, but also creating new ones. To protect themselves and their loved ones, people began to make do with what they had at home. He expands on this grassroots response by stating that,

“In some sense, the grass-roots response to the pandemic was a heck of a silver lining,” Doug said. “It was one of the most impressive human mobilizations that we’ve had in two generations, and in some sense had a lot of parallels to the war effort 70 years ago.”

He also elaborated on the impressive innovation of systems developed to coordinate the efforts of thousands of people who wanted to help. The high number of innovations being brought to market has prompted Doug to believe that with flexible funding and approval models being offered by the Food and Drug Administration, the process of bringing innovations to market is set to change.

Doug Hannah is an assistant professor of Strategy & Innovation at the Questrom School of Business at Boston University, where he studies strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship. He did his doctoral work at the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, in the Management Science and Engineering Department at Stanford University, and subsequently worked at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. He studies strategy and entrepreneurship in technology-based industries like solar, medical devices, and social media. These settings are challenging because they require constant innovation as well as collaboration, but require firms to interact within the context of substantial competitive and technological uncertainty. As a result, it's often unclear where opportunities lie and what must be done to capture them. He holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College and an M.S. Prior to his academic life, he co-founded an environmental advocacy group, the Big Green Bus, worked as an analyst at the Cadmus Group in Boston and as a Fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and enjoyed a stint on a wonderful farm in Lesotho.