Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Clinical Innovation - Simplicity and Innovation: The Case (and the Multiple Cases) of Gatorade

Robert Cade, MD, the nephrologist who invented Gatorade in 1965, to rehydrate dehydrated University of Florida football players, died in Gainesville, Florida, on November 26 of end stage kidney disease.


He died a wealthy man because of a profoundly simple idea: that you could replace electrolytes lost through sweating by replacing lost electrolytes with electrolytes in a sweet drink. The drink, Gatorade, named after the Florida athletic team’s mascot and Cade's last name, was made up of water, sucrose, glucose, salt, lemon juice, and a cunning dash of whatever.


This year people drink 12 million bottles of Gatorade each day. Athletes drink it on the practice field and during games, dehydrated patients receive it, and the rest of us drink it because we’re thirsty. Gatorade commands 81% of the sports drink market, and it has generated more than $150 million of royalties for the University of Florida (and for the Cade family), which agreed to split the royalties after a 31 month legal battle in the 1960s.


Gatorade is a huge success because its concept is simple, it fills a need, and it’s name is memorable. Its genesis was simple. Cade created it after the University of Florida football coach, Dwayne Douglas, asked Cade<” Why don’t my players urinate after a game?” Even its taste is simple. Athletes rejected the first Gatorade because it was tasteless. Cade’s wife, Mary, said, “Why don’t you add a little lemon juice?”


In the end Gatorade works because it fills the late Peter F. Drucker’s first postulate for a successful innovation;


“Innovation has to be simple and focused. If it does morethan one thing, it confuses. If it isn’t simple, it won’t work. The greatest praise of Innovation is, ‘This is obvious. Why didn’t I think of it?”


Gatorade does one thing: It replaces what’s lost.

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