You never know what lies around the next corner—it’s one of the great truths of life, yet also what makes it exciting. While what’s sitting around that next corner may be good or bad, it’s the journey toward the unknown that’s so thrilling.

For years after I moved to California, I would grab a friend on the weekend and start driving with no destination in mind. Knowing that the state had so many unique and beautiful small towns, it seemed reasonable that eventually we’d happen across something incredibly cool and unexpected.

So, today, it’s not surprising that some of my favorite iPad apps are the ones that randomly take me on an adventure to a website that matches my interests but that I’d be unlikely to findon my own. As far as brave new worlds go, the state of California pales in comparison to the entire universe of the World Wide Web.

Apps like StumbleUpon and Zite point you to a plethora of interesting websites, blogs, and news articles from some of the farthest corners of the Web, based on criteria you preselect.

That’s how I discovered the site, founded by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, which compiles recipes, travel guides, fashion, wellness tips, etc. There, a headline caught my eye: “Dare Greatly.” The piece was about a book of the same name that focuses on the pursuit of perfection. And those two words stuck with me.

I realized that “daring greatly” is exactly what we need to do as an industry—and it’s likely the exact path taken by projects that have pushed the status quo and come up with innovative new designs for a patient room, piece of furniture, or treatment space.

It’s that determination to break through boundaries, redefine problems, and refocus energies that have created the leaps forward in innovation already seen in our industry over the past two decades. With new building starts down considerably from their lofty perch pre-recession, we’ve been forced as an industry to dare greatly just to survive the last four years.

The thing about healthcare design that separates it from many other sectors is that the need for healthcare services doesn’t go away just because the economy stumbles. If anything, due to the needs of the large baby boom population, the necessity is greater than it was a decade ago and will continue to grow for decades yet to come.

The phrase “dare greatly” actually comes from a quote in Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic.” It’s a long quote, but in it he says:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly … 

What I love about this quote is that it acknowledges that along the road to innovation and creation, there will always be the naysayers, the ones with the myriad reasons why it can’t be done, shouldn’t be done, won’t be done. And sometimes—often, even—it’s true.

There will be failures and missed targets, stumbles and near-misses. But if we, as a community, are going to help take healthcare to the next level, to a place where it’s affordable, accessible, and supported by environments that are safe, efficient, effective, and nurturing, then we’ll have to dare greatly, both as individuals and as a community.

One of my favorite keepsakes from one of our Pebble Partner projects is a t-shirt that Cheryl Herbert, former Dublin Methodist Hospital CEO, made for her project team during the design of the new Dublin, Ohio, hospital. It says: “Run until apprehended.”  Who knows, if you run far enough, you just may find that you’ve been on a great adventure.

Debra Levin, EDAC, is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. She can be reached at