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Ness releases book providing a road map for “thinking outside the box”

HOUSTON - (March 13, 2012) – With a belief that innovative thinking is the engine of scientific progress, Roberta Ness, M.D., M.P.H., vice president for innovation at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), has published a new book providing a roadmap for readers to learn to “think outside the box.”

“INNOVATION GENERATION: How to Produce Creative and Useful Scientific Ideas” is based on Ness’ program and course, Innovative Thinking, which teaches students at UTHealth’s six schools to expand their creativity and thought processes.  Proceeds from the book sales, currently available at the bookstore at the UTHealth School of Nursing, go to support the Center for Innovation Generation at UTHealth. The School of Nursing is located at 6901 Bertner Houston,TX 77030.

“People often ask if creativity and innovation can be taught. The answer is unequivocally yes,” said Ness, who is also dean of the UT School of Public Health, part of UTHealth. “Sometimes it’s as simple as relating the problem you are chewing on to another realm of your life, but it can be as difficult as learning to set aside long-standing expectations in order to re-frame a situation.”

Ness reflects on the many policymakers and pundits who believe that as a nation we are falling behind in science and technology innovation.  “It is not because scientists have become less smart,” she said. “Researchers are trained to stay inside the lines of current thinking.  Yet the most impactful innovations come from ideas that are completely out of the step with the norm.”

Innovation Generation demonstrates how to combine newly acquired skills in creative thinking with the normal process of scientific thinking to generate ideas. The tools needed to push this thought process include analogy, expanding assumptions, pulling questions apart, changing one’s point of view, reversing one’s thinking and getting the most out of multidisciplinary groups. Included in the book are stories of scientists who found paths to innovation, such as primate researcher Jane Goodall, Herb Neddleman, M.D., the father of lead research and Ignaz Semmelweis, M.D., whose discovery of infection control saved millions of lives.

Ness has been dean of the UT School of Public Health since 2008. She also holds the M. David Low Chair in Public Health and is a professor of epidemiology and disease control.

The book, published by Oxford University Press, is also available on

Jade Waddy
Media Contact: 713-500-3030