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Seeing is believing: The power of innovation



Mark Stephenson 12-2-2011

There is a phrase I grew up with, one that will be familiar to many of you: ‘You do well by doing good’.

It’s an inspiring guide to life but it wasn’t until I joined Philips that I realised it’s an even more powerful mantra when applied to business. There was a time when Americans only thought of TVs when they heard the name Philips but today, they understand that we are here to help society live longer, encourage communities to forge stronger links with each other and prepare a brighter, healthier future for our children.

I’m reminded of this every day in the office when I greet my colleague Catherine. Catherine has a beautiful little girl, Alexis, who is blind. In most ways Alexis’ condition does not hold her back – she’s funny, vivacious, kind, mischievous… everything you want in a daughter. Last year Catherine had an idea – why can’t our engineers adapt some of Philips’s extraordinary lighting products so they can benefit her daughter and millions like her?

lightaide 1

So we accepted that challenge. Our innovators worked tirelessly; we carried out studies with our specialist partners; tested products and eventually created a special laptop-like product with bright, color-changing lights paired with incredibly clever programs that allow blind children to see shapes, colours and shadows. LightAide is truly unique and shows just what we are capable of when we listen to people and then strive to improve their lives. We innovated because we found a need. 

The initial LightAide prototype features a grid of lights whose colors can be changed and sequenced by the teacher. A big, round switch makes it easy for a small palm to gleefully pound away on it as the child reacts to the lights. It allows a therapist to assess how much a child can see, helping them to construct individual learning programs, as well as encouraging parents to engage with their visually-impaired children in emotionally-satisfying ways. And of course, watching the children have such fun is especially rewarding.


But we didn’t stop with our initial success. A close friend of mine works with severely autistic children – could LightAide help them, too? After a few emails and some revelatory trials, we successfully adapted the product that Catherine’s daughter was using so that children with learning difficulties on the other side of America could enjoy school in a way that had hitherto been impossible.


This is innovation at its most life-changing, innovation that has a strong emotional connection and thus real meaning. It puts the needs of individuals at the heart of everything.


We have a rich history at Philips of creating products with our partners that make people’s lives easier. Now we are able to make products that significantly transform people’s lives in ways our parents and grandparents couldn’t have imagined.


Not just in America, but in the poorest, harshest, darkest parts of the planet. For instance, our heart monitors are now used in some of the world’s most deprived areas and our solar-powered LED lighting systems help children in distant African villages attain even greater qualifications at school.


And, through a mother’s insight combined with our innovation we’ve helped Catherine’s daughter and many other children to have a better quality of life. Doing well by doing good is sometimes just a phrase, nothing more. When you work at Philips you realize that it’s everything.

Mark Stephenson

Mark Stephenson

Head of Brand, Communications & Digital, North America

Corporate Communications executive with broad international experience recognized for creating innovative outreach programs targeting both external and internal stakeholders that successfully results in a positive impact to corporate reputation and the bottom line.


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