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David Green
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The Master of Collaboration

Thirty-nine million are needlessly blind because they cannot afford operations to replace cataracts with intraocular lenses. David Green realized that a large portion of the cost of these lenses was profit margin. He set about finding ways to make the lenses affordable for everyone, regardless of their income, without sacrificing profitability. Furthermore, by forcing other companies to compete with his products, he was able to change the competitive landscape in favor of the consumer and drive the costs down even further.

The eyecare programs David has helped develop are the most prominent players in their markets, and the most profitable, despite doing 30-50% of their work for free or below cost. For example, his company Aurolab, which has 10% of the global market share, has helped approximately 35 million people to see by dramatically lowering the cost of intraocular lenses from $300 to their lowest-priced lens, which is just $1.20. His success has also shown other companies that better transparency in pricing and competition can be healthy and create sustainable markets in the long term.

画像 画像 How David revolutionizes the medical aids market

Like any company trying to bring a product to market, success relies heavily on the skills and knowledge of others. But he has adopted a methodology that contradicts traditional business models where control and profit tend to be the core value metrics. In a recent interview with the ANA BLUE WING Program, David shared some more insight about why he works with people, along with the secrets and things he has learned through his many collaborations.

A More Organic Collaboration Model with Many Benefits

Access to specialist knowledge and skills is just one of the benefits that David gains from working with others. “There is joy in it. It also creates a shared consciousness where all the players leverage their knowledge to achieve a shared goal” he explains.

One of the keys to reaping these extra benefits is David’s organic leadership role, which contradicts large organizations that use hierarchies to organize themselves and exert control. “I put more emphasis on understanding others, their strengths, and empowering them to do their part than leading. I work in the interstitial space between groups and individuals, pulling them together, much like an orchestra conductor”.

画像 画像 David Green’s Collaboration Model:Organic Project team Model Image(right)

David does not regard himself as an expert, but a certain level of clinical knowledge is required to identify the problem and create the initial idea. He acquired this knowledge by asking others, but this strategy wasn’t something that came naturally. “People feel self-conscious about asking questions. I had to overcome that fear of showing my ignorance. My motto was ‘ask a stupid question, get a smart answer.’”

The Secrets to a Successful Collaboration

A collaboration is only as successful as the people, but David says he does not find the people he works with by searching. “I sort of bump into them. I think it’s been a matter of luck or serendipity. I don’t find them on the internet. I am looking for people who have extreme core competencies in their field and a willingness and interest to help others. Some of the people I work with use intraocular lenses or hearing aids from the companies I have founded.”

David adds that there is a unique mechanism behind his collaborations. “I think a sort of cause-and-effect chain is in play. Whether it's helping individuals or organizations who then help lots of other people, the more virtuous the network is, the easier it is to make things happen. The vision must be compelling enough to get across the finish line and gather the people and the money we need to enact it.”

Sometimes collaborations lead to other collaborations, which can help with future projects. For example, David pulled together many global organizations to fast-track the regulatory approval of a cancer drug used for off-label treatment of eye disease. He is now working with a startup company to do the same for a Covid-19 medicine. “It improves survivability by 85% with just one shot.” he enthuses.

The Importance of Making Work Enjoyable

Just like everyone, David sometimes switches gears to relax. He has found a way to combine both work and pleasure to stay in touch with people worldwide. “At the weekends, I run, spend time with my sons and friends, and meditate, but the weekends are also when I get my best work done; I can call people in other parts of the world where for them it is a weekday. So, I try to enjoy myself by bringing pleasure to my work. I guess you could say it’s a quiet life,” he explains with a little chuckle.

Much of David’s competitiveness was shaped by a rather surprising pastime. “Wrestling. I think wrestling instilled in me a discipline and competitive nature. I use these to be hyper-competitive to beat other medical companies in the marketplace. It’s a duel for the sake of humanity so that other people can see, hear or have the treatment they would otherwise not be able to access.”


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David Green

David graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor in General Studies (1978) and a Masters degree in Public Health (1982). Since then, he has worked with many organizations to make medical technology and health care services sustainable, affordable, and accessible to all. He is a MacArthur Fellow, Ashoka Fellow, and is recognized by Schwab Foundation as a leading social entrepreneur. He is also on the faculty of Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and is a recipient of the "Spirit of Helen Keller" award for humanitarian efforts in blindness prevention.



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