A Paradigm Shift in Tech Innovation and Business Design (ft. Sunny Su)

Bradley Werrell
4 min readApr 2, 2021


LISTEN: https://open.spotify.com/show/4FUqTAFwMmXNORnRUg2CPu


Sunny Su’s Team at Paradigm Innovations

Entrepreneur and Designer Sunny Su joins me to discuss

- The HXI (a rubric to standardize the field of innovation)

- Working with Duke University’s medical innovation projects

- How social media’s design flaws explain their bad effects on health


Sunny is a strategic designer and the founder of Paradigm.cx/ . They help young technical startups design their brand, product and pitch materials to prepare for angel investment. Sunny is the developer of the “Human Experience Index”‍


Human vs Humanity Centered Design

The core values, laws and principles we begin with always unfold into the systems and realities we inhabit. It is popular these days for business consultants and personal development gurus to preach “start with why.” Starting with why means asking

“What are the goals for this new project?”

“Why am I doing this?”

“Who am I trying to help?”

“What values will I uphold along the way?”

This is important, but it’s only half of the picture. In addition to starting with WHY, it’s critical to also start with HOW. My “why” as a doctor is to provide guidance and help to people in need. But an untold amount of research and practice has gone into developing standards and practices (the “how”) that allow me to accomplish that why. A “field” or the standardization of a skillset across a professional class — is meant to codify a “how.” If you are advancing the “field” you are helping everybody’s “how” improve on their journey to achieving their “why.”

Sometimes new “hows” get discovered and a new field is born. In recent years, venture design is one of those new fields. Apple Inc was very innovative in a lot of ways — one of which was choosing to have a “CDO” or Chief Design Officer. They were one of the first big companies to realize “We must design the aesthetic experience we want our customers to have.” Since then the field of design has exploded within the startup world. However, the popularity of the field far exceeds the standards of the field.

People often talk about “human centered design” in the design world. This means building products and services that the end user will like. In the age of social media we have all discovered that building something that individual endusers enjoy does not mean we have built something good for endusers when they adopt a product at scale. Social Media is fun in small doses. Individuals can find people and products they care about easily. You and I can launch a business from our home using the internet.

Social Media has harmful effects at large doses. Mental illness, misinformation, data-mining, and time wasting impact millions of people. The popularity of social media props up an industry of rare earth mineral mining in Africa that thrives off of child labor. Silicon Valley designed a product that is good for individual users, but that is bad for humanity at scale. The more satisfied users sign up, the worse the scaled effects on our society are.

We must define innovation before we can standardize it

Why did the field of design not catch this? Sunny would say that the field of design was not “updated” with the first principle of “humanity centered design.” Designers must design things that work for endusers and that work at scale. Sunny’s observation begs the question: If the “how” of design is not advancing quickly enough to help designers achieve their “whys,” then could we create a field that focuses on allowing other fields to speed up their rate of innovation? If so, what does that look like?

Sunny’s hypothesis is that something called a “Human Experience Index” (HXI) could be developed. This index would rate products, services, experiences, processes, fields — etc on their ability to innovate in various categories. If the field of venture design begins to lag in one area, they could consult the HXI to find a field that has succeeded in that area (perhaps medicine or engineering). I think it’s a brilliant idea.

The biggest problem in the field of philosophy is the “problem of definitions.” Two people can be debating “morality” or “God” for HOURS before realizing they’re not speaking about the same thing at all. What a waste of time! If we can identify the standards and metrics that make something more or less “innovative” than some other advancement, then we could organize every field to advance towards common goals that serve individual humans and humanity itself.

I’m excited to see what Sunny comes up with.



Bradley Werrell

I'm on a mission to give patients a more affordable way to receive healthcare, and to give practicioners more ethical ways to provide it.