Intuitive Surgical's Guthart: "The first rule of being disruptive is having people who believe they can change the world"

March 28, 2012 by Brian Johnson

MassDevice discusses innovation, robotic surgery and Silicon Valley culture with Intuitive Surgical CEO Gary Guthart.

Gary Guthart knows a little something about disruptive innovation.

The 45-year-old CEO of Intuitive Surgical (NSDQ:ISRG) has been working to change the way minimally invasive surgery is performed since his days on the research team at SRI (formerly Stanford Research Institute). That group of Silicon Valley pioneers helped lay the foundation for the computer-enhanced surgery technology that helped launch the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Intuitive. Named head of engineering in his early 30s, Guthart worked his way up the ranks at ISRG under predecessor Lonnie Smith, who took a seat on the board in early 2010 when Guthart took over the corner office.

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So far Guthart has delivered, increasing top-line performance 34% in his 1st year and opening up the da Vinci robot for several additional procedures. If the da Vinci truly changes the face of surgery, as the company claims it can, it will likely be under Guthart's watch.

Last year MassDevice named him one of the 5 most innovative CEOs in the industry. We caught up with him recently for a wide-ranging discussion on what makes him tick and what keeps Intuitive humming. We also discussed a recent study that questioned whether the cost of robotic surgery was worth price and what the future for computer-aided surgery looks like.

MassDevice: You started this journey as part of the core team at SRI. What was the central problem you addressed and did you solve it?

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