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Innovation lessons from Wuhan coronavirus hospital

The construction of a new coronavirus hospital in Wuhan has been completed.

Huoshenshan hospital, a 269,000 sq. ft structure with space for 1,000 beds and 30 intensive care wards, all built in just ten days. The hospital, which will be staffed by around 1,400 army medics dispatched to Wuhan, received its first patients on Monday 10:00 AM local time.

You can see a time-lapse video of the construction of Huoshenshan hospital here.

This isn’t the first time China has pulled off such an enormous feat; During the SARS outbreak in 2003, Beijing built a similar medical facility in seven days.

How is China able to build a 1000-bed hospital as a triage center for managing mass infections in 10 days?

Necessity and Urgency! While the necessity is the mother of innovation, urgency is the most overlooked component of innovation.

Necessity, in life and in business, it’s often the struggles that we face which propel us to the next level of achievement and accomplishment. Whether it's fixing the CO2 filter problem on Apollo 13 lunar module or responding to rapid spread of a novel virus.

Urgency is the speed and resolve in addressing a specific problem or turning an idea into results. Urgency is recognition of the imperative for action.

At Innovation Discovery Center we use Community, Process, Urgency model (Figure 1) to create sustainable innovation for large and small organizations alike.

Figure 1. Sustained Innovation - Community, Process, Urgency

Wuhan hospital construction is a case study that brought all of these elements together in delivering results with lightning speed.


Engineering community experienced in building skyscrapers at a record time. In addition, China’s history with mass epidemics has prepared them to respond as a community to coronavirus crisis in Wuhan.


They had the process “pre-fab or “modular construction” in place. Beijing, Xiaotangshan Hospital, build for SARS, consisted of prefabricated structures. The new Wuhan Huoshenshan facility is based on the same model.


Need for immediate action. Thousands of patients straining the system, Wuhan is running out of treatment facilities.

It is part of the culture. In order to consistently deliver it is important to have a cultural foundation. I saw that first hand when discussing Huoshenshan’s speedy completion with our Chinese colleagues. Their response was “yes, we can and we’ve done it before.” They were not overly impressed, it was expected. They pointed out that urgency is part of Chinese culture.

These are elements companies, large and small, should keep in mind when striving for sustained innovation.

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