MATTER Pre-Launch Talk with IDEO Chief Creator Officer Paul Bennett

February 2, 2015

By Mary Lee, MATTER intern

MATTER hosted its first large-scale event last Thursday, welcoming IDEO Chief Creative Officer and world-renowned speaker Paul Bennett. With more than 200 people in the audience, Bennett kicked off the first of what will be many forums designed to engage healthcare experts in conversations about the direction of the healthcare industry.

“You’re practitioners, researchers, executives, lawmakers, innovators, investors and entrepreneurs. But most importantly, you’re all patients,” said David Schonthal, MATTER co-founder and board member and professor at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, in his introduction of Bennett at the pre-launch event.

“We are all patients,” Schonthal said to the audience of more than 200 who turned out for the pre-launch event. “There are not many markets in the world where everybody who creates, also consumes. Where everyone who adds, also subtracts,” he continued. “What better place to talk about something tricky and complicated, than MATTER?”

In his talk, Bennett contended that the end of life, culturally viewed as a looming and frightening inevitability, is actually an opportunity for design today– “to make death, like life, something that we fill with joy, beauty, hope and possibility.”

And it was through this particular dialogue titled “How might design walk with us to the end of life?” in which he guided the audience in confronting the radical notion of embracing death and normalizing it.

Bennett revealed his most intimate fears like dying alone and life-altering moments he experienced when his father died.

Designing death is uncharted territory in redesigning the ultimate journey, he explained.

Bennett invited the audience to experience these delicate moments in his journey. The conversation led to a provocative challenge: normalize organically hard-to-talk about topics and shine optimism in traditionally dark spaces.

“Design transcends agenda,” Bennett said, recalling a memorable experience in his journey. “It speaks to the politics of optimism.”

As MATTER’s members shift into full gear this week, Bennett’s talk instilled hope and optimism, and reminded them why they were there: to help people.

“It’s a great start to MATTER,” said Andrew Cittadine, a board member of MATTER and Diagnostic Photonics president and chief executive officer, about the pre-launch event. “It really comes down to the enthusiasm and the optimism of the community. It’s simply a great time for Chicago healthcare startups.”

“This is fantastic that someone is taking an interest to try to promote some innovation in the area,” said John Combes, American Hospital Association senior vice president and president of the Center for Healthcare Governance, regarding palliative care. “I think it’s an issue that needs to be addressed and people shouldn’t be fearful in talking about that.”

“MATTER is a place you come when you want to not only push what’s possible, but acceptable,” Schonthal said. “It’s a place where you come when you want to solve hard problems.”

It’s a place to do something that matters.