May 4, 2016

What is Translational Thinking?

Translational Thinking is a systematic approach to mobilizing discovery knowledge towards improved health outcomes.

Translational Thinking is a concept we are developing at the TRP.  It is deeply rooted in the d.School / IDEOconcepts of Design Thinking, but it has been adapted for specific application in the ‘health sciences’ domain in order to facilitate ‘translation’. Translational Thinking is the application of Translational Research (best practices and methods derived for expediting translation or discovery knowledge into practical medical or health related applications).

This is a schematic representation of the concepts involved in applying Translational Thinking towards innovation in health.  The TRP curriculum involves the application and understanding of this cycle in both the acts of translating and the reflective acts of understanding translation.

Another way of representing this process is in the diagram below.  This incorporates ideas of divergent and convergent thinking processes and the experiential learning cycle that roughly maps onto the thinking processes.  One problem with this way of thinking about Translational Thinking is that it makes it ‘look’ linear rather than constantly iterative. The power of this processes is very much associated with the notion that as you move through the processes new data, observations, feedback and ideas can help you pivot your thinking.  This allows for a great deal of flexibility within the methodological framework.Translational_Thinking_May2016

Of course, these are both works in progress and as the students in the Translational Research Program work on understanding and implementing the framework towards their specific applications these concepts will undoubtedly be changed and refined.  It’s unlikely that there will be one uniform process that will somehow help expedite ALL translational research in the health sciences, but at least this conceptual prototype helps get the ball rolling towards better ways of thinking about and mobilizing science towards tangible applications that will help advance human health.  That’s the goal!