Category Archives: innovation

Siemens Healthineers: New Name, New Promise

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When I was a teenager back in 1986, Disney brilliantly dubbed its design and development arm “Imagineering.” With the unique blend of imagination and engineering denoted by the name, the group developed Disney’s theme parks, resorts, and other entertainment venues. Perhaps more than any other entertainment company, Disney has consistently provided imaginative engineering that creates one-of-a-kind experiences for guests. They have delivered on the promise of Imagineering.

Fast forward 30 years, Siemens just this month rolled out its new brand name “Siemens Healthineers” for their healthcare business. They explained it this way: “The new brand underlines Siemens Healthcare’s pioneering spirit and its engineering expertise in the healthcare industry.”

Of course, the greatest power of a brand name is in the promise it makes. Here’s the promise that CEO Bernd Montag made in relation to the new name: “Going forward as Siemens Healthineers, we will leverage this expertise to provide a wider range of customized clinical solutions that support our customers business holistically. We are confident in our capability to become their inspiring partner on our customers’ journey to success.”

Other industry leaders have made similar moves. In 2014, Philips pivoted their focus to become a HealthTech company. The strategy combined their professional healthcare business and consumer business (and still trying to spin off the lighting business) so that “health professionals and consumers will engage on their health journey in a more continuous manner, instead of waiting for acute episodes where disease may hit the patient.” Several years prior, GE launched Healthymagination as their “commitment to invest in innovations that bring better health to more people.”

I think the challenge for Siemens Healthineers will be to focus not on engineering health products but on actually engineering better health, and in a way that is meaningfully different than their competitors.

It’s a subtle but significant difference. Engineering health products is about what they make. Engineering better health is about why. And it is the “why” that can fulfill Montag’s promise to become an “inspiring partner on our customers’ journey to success.”

So it is for all companies: The inspiration is always in your “why.” Which in medtech, ultimately comes down to reducing suffering, improving wellbeing, and saving lives.

Companies in Healthcare: What Could Make You Disappear??

The healthcare industry is changing at an incredible pace. That means winners and losers. New companies emerging and existing companies going away. What could make your company disappear?

To be clear, by “make your company disappear” I don’t mean some super-powered ray gun or a natural disaster that would ‘poof!’ make your company suddenly vanish, dissolve, or fade away.  I’m asking seriously what could make your products, services, or company irrelevant, obsolete, or undesirable?

And I apologize. I know disappearing can be an unpleasant thing to think about. But it’s really important to think about, especially when you’re doing well. As you know, there is a plethora of products, services, and companies that were once great, and then succumbed to forces that made them disappear.

In today’s healthcare environment, just consider the impact of Meaningful Use or the MEDTECH Act; the shift toward value-based reimbursement or growing influence of GPOs; the proliferation of wearables and monitoring devices; and the health plays of leading tech companies like Apple and Google.

Any of these forces can position a few as market leaders, necessitate radical restructuring for many, make other companies disappear, and launch countless new startups to replace them. You want to stay strong. Be proactive. Don’t be one of the disappearing companies or a victim of circumstances.

First consider your company’s relationship with the market and healthcare business environment. Start with these five questions:

  1. What change in the market can make my products or services irrelevant, obsolete, or undesirable?
  2. What technological innovation can make my products or services irrelevant, obsolete, or undesirable?
  3. What shift in consumer behavior can make my products or services irrelevant, obsolete, or undesirable?
  4. What policy or regulation can make my products or services irrelevant, obsolete, or undesirable?
  5. What competitor can make my products or services irrelevant, obsolete, or undesirable?

Your answers should help you look beyond the present, see threats to your long-term viability, and proactively make plans to preserve your company’s existence and well-being. Think big picture, not just about what might replace your offerings, but what might integrate your technology into something bigger, like smartphones have integrated the functions of MP3 players. Consider too getting input from KOLs and customers to give you a more well-rounded perspective and greater certainty in your conclusions.

Now take a look at your own internal practices and beliefs, that if unchecked, can prevent you from being agile and responsive, and ultimately make you disappear. But don’t do this assessment unilaterally, get feedback from your team. Drawing on the innovation work of Dartmouth professor Vijay Govindarajan, think about these three traps that can make even highly successful companies flop. Do any apply to you?

  1. Major investments in systems or technologies can make it prohibitively expensive for you to move to newer and better tools. But the longer you stay with what you have, the harder it is to switch. Some call this the “sunk costs” fallacy.
  2. Fixation on what brought you success blinds you to new things that can threaten or displace you. You don’t see it until it’s too late. Then you respond with desperation. Sometimes “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” just does not apply.
  3. Hyperfocus on today’s marketplace can lead you to ignore new trends and market forces, and future opportunities and threats. You may be too wrapped up in the business to focus on the business. You’re all about today, and lose out on forward thinking.

Combine your answers to the first set of questions about your company’s relationship with the market and external environment, with your assessment of traps based on internal practices and beliefs. Be honest.

Stay strong. Don’t disappear!

Med Tech Product Managers: Persuading Your Management To Support Your Innovation

innovationJames is an experienced product manager at a large device company. He has a winning new population health idea supported by a strong business case.

James knows his new initiative will pivot the company well for the future of value-based reimbursement. He also knows that maintaining the status quo will be a death knell as the fee-for-service paradigm gradually disappears.

James has solid ROI projections and trend analytics to back it all up. He also knows his idea fits and delivers on the CEO’s stated vision for the company’s future.  He has pitched the idea up the management chain internally on several occasions.

The problem is James is not getting the support he needs from upper management. He gets heads nodding but no action. No commitment. Overall lukewarm reception.

Why? Because even though what James is proposing is sensible, timely, backed by facts, and aligned with the corporate vision,  it requires going in a direction that is unfamiliar to the company. It is perceived as an unknown. It is therefore seen as risky business.

What should James do? It doesn’t make sense to simply repeat the same arguments and expect a different result. He already made the best case he could. But he knows the window for competitive advantage is slipping away.

James needs other voices to give his bosses enough confidence to say yes and invest in what they know is a good idea and necessary for the company’s long-term viability, despite their concerns. These other voices need to be strong enough to overcome fear of change, fear of moving into an unfamiliar space.

James doesn’t need a large quantity of voices. Survey numbers won’t make his case more persuasive. The status quo thinking he needs to overcome is not rational. He needs to strategically manage relationships with his internal customers. Persuasion at an emotional level if required.

Specifically, James needs smart, influential people that genuinely share his thinking and who his bosses will listen to with open minds. That means select key opinion leaders and perhaps several important customers who will voice their agreement with three things: 1) The underlying premise about healthcare’s inevitable shift toward population health management and value-based reimbursement. 2) The recommendation to take proactive action now in order to be positioned to serve healthcare customers in the impending new business reality without losing viability in the current fee-for-service environment. 3) The reality that not taking action is the riskier choice.

The insights and recommendations need to be delivered carefully and strategically to be heard and take hold. Even if these influential voices are only echoing what James already said, when management hears it from them, it has a different impact.   It shifts the perception of risk away from stepping into new territory, and toward missing the boat by not moving forward with Jame’s idea.

There’s a lot of science and research behind how and why this works from studies of persuasion and decision-making. But bottom line, and like-it-or-not, James needs to marshall additional resources to persuade his upper management to move forward and with sufficient investment. The end result is management’s initial fears of change are allayed, they feel reasonably confident that they are moving forward in the right direction, and most likely, they say yes!

Hot at HIMSS 2016: Interoperability, Population Health, Telehealth, Patient Engagement

I just got back from a jam-packed few days in Vegas for HIMSS 2016. Just me and 40,000 of my closest HIT friends.himss16

The mix was 2/3 vendors, 1/3 healthcare systems, I heard. Lots of excitement, lots of energy, lots of promise. Lots of walking.

As I step back, I see four main themes jump out: Interoperability, population health, telehealth, patient engagement. Here’s my quick take on each.

Interoperability: Getting devices to talk to each other, share data, and play nicely together for the higher good- better care, better outcomes. Along with improving mediating outcomes like workflow and reducing errors. Kudos to device and IT companies for sharing and letting go of turf. It’s certainly time.

Population health: All about prediction to figure out whom to provide what services to. Seems to be a modern version of managed care in terms of bottom line purpose, but driven by predictive analytics and with far more tailoring of care. The key piece still under-estimated is how hard it can be to get people to change health behaviors.

Telehealth: Keeps evolving to let more and more care and monitoring happen remotely (or “out-of-person” vs. “in-person”). Now it’s not just connecting provider and patient, it covers connecting providers and providers, providers, payers, and patients, etc. This will challenge our paradigm about what monitoring, diagnosing, and treating can only be done in-person. I think the litmus test for clinical care is empathy – to what extent can a provider truly empathize and thereby deeply understand a patient through mediating technology.

Patient engagement: Though it’s been around since the earliest days of healthcare, it now means all kinds of things and is catalyzing a wide variety of new products and services. Key issues here are about defining what it is and isn’t, developing objective metrics, and making it not a separate “thing,” but an integral and unavoidable part of every healthcare interaction.

Better interoperability behind the scenes, plus telehealth to enhance and extend relationships, combined with population health to focus resources, improves patient engagement to make it all matter.

Better ROI from Your Marketing Research Investments: The Deep-Wide-Long Approach

Med device and health IT companies are constantly investing in new ideas, hoping to discover and bring to market the next game-changing product or service. That requires lots of market intelligence and customer research to get it right and avoid relying on risky guesswork and hunches.

A problem we see, especially with the larger companies that sell hundreds of products into numerous care areas in hospitals, is fragmentation. Even within a care unit, many research projects involving the same target audience and addressing similar needs are not coordinated and not taking advantage of cross-investigation.

For example, a company offering a range of cardiology products may have one business unit doing discovery research for new product ideas for stents and catheters, another BU validating value propositions for their special ECG monitor, and yet another BU getting reactions to messaging for a groundbreaking ultrasound device. Or all three BUs may be simultaneously doing research to answer the same business question, e.g. how to position their particular line of new cardiology products for launch. In either case, it’s likely – unfortunately – that none of the BUs are talking to one another.

The good news is that there are good strategic opportunities for collaboration that would benefit all the BUs, the company, and the customers they serve. Here is a framework we developed to help med tech companies leverage their investment in any and every customer research project for a better ROI. We call it Deep-Wide-Long.

Typically, a customer research project will go deep on the main topic, whether it’s understanding a specific set of problems customers are facing, getting reactions to new product concepts, or shaping marketing messages. With careful planning, the project can also go wide by investigating adjacent areas. And it can go long, by strategically reinforcing within the company the benefit of taking a customer-centric approach to product innovation and marketing. The incremental cost of doing so is small compared to the knowledge gain and its value.

For example, if we’re interviewing cardiologists to mainly gain insights into what they want ultrasound devices to do for them (deep), we can secondarily allow time to also investigate their use of ECG monitors as well as their reactions to new ideas for device integration (wide). Plus we can engage the other relevant BUs to understand their information needs as we shape the project, and then facilitate integration of the results across BUs (long).

The bottom line of Deep-Wide-Long is improving the bottom line by getting as much mileage as possible from every marketing research project, in a way that strengthens the company’s commitment to put the customer first.

Overcoming the CEO Attitude: “We’re So Good We Don’t Need Marketing!”

I was talking with a friend recently who heads up business development for a small technology development company that specializes in solving really complex engineering problems.

She faces a big and not uncommon challenge: Her leadership team has the unfortunate belief that a) because the company’s problem solving skills are so unique, and b) because they’re so good within their specialization, they don’t need to invest in marketing. By extension, the supposition is that customers must inherently understand what the company does and know why they’re the right choice. Therefore, the logic goes, the company doesn’t need to work on their marketing strategy, or brand positioning, or what their value proposition is. (Feedback to the contrary and underwhelming sale figures be damned!).

From an inside-in perspective– that is, how people within the company think about the company– the reasoning is understandable. From an outside-in or customer perspective, it is clearly and dangerously flawed thinking.

What to do about it?

First, let’s dive into the underlying dynamic. We all know there’s often conflict between engineers and marketers at technology companies. Engineers want to push the limits of that can be done with technology, while marketers want to focus on what customers want and will buy. When well-managed, the tension between these two equally important and valid perspectives can be productive and lead to significant and highly desired innovation.

But when a technology-centric mindset invades how company leaders think and how business development happens, it becomes a big problem. When this occurs, company culture evolves within an often unspoken and rather insidious “if we build it, they will come” philosophy. This myopic perspective leads CEOs to denounce the need for marketing, or for that matter to reject investing anything to understand what customers think and want.

There are three likely outcomes in this kind of scenario when management puts technology ahead of customers: 1) The company keeps doing what they’re doing and may show incremental growth (usually in fits and starts), but clearly fails to meet expectations, 2) The company stagnates and dies without ever getting to root cause, 3) The company suffers from underperformance until investors or other power brokers demand new leadership and a more customer-centric mindset takes hold.

The other and much less likely outcome is for the company to get lucky, hit a home run with a new technology, and win success in spite of themselves. This fairy tale ending happens just enough, and is so seductive, that it can sustain a CEO’s self-deception that the company does not need to put customers first and does not need real marketing strategy. It’s kind of like the allure of slot machines – maybe the next pull will hit the jackpot!

The good news is that there is a way (besides deep pain!) to overcome a CEO’s dismissal of marketing as an unnecessary investment and the corresponding presumption (i.e. hope) that customers will just “get it.”

It stems from an often overlooked common ground: Both engineers and marketers fundamentally believe that with the right tools, any problem can be solved. The key is to leverage this powerful and shared worldview. This can be accomplished in several ways that I’ll cover in detail in a future post. One of the most compelling is to set up experiments in which management a) hypothesizes what customers know, and b) commits to taking corrective action if their hypotheses are proven wrong. Then you do the customer research to confirm or correct the hypotheses and bring the results back to the team. This approach seems to bypass egos and importantly, reframes the problem in a way that better matches the CEO’s more technical mindset.

Tell us. How have you seen the problem of company leadership denying the need for customer-centered marketing strategy successfully overcome?

How to Unseat the Market Leader: Hit the Right Emotional Chord with Customers

Here’s a tough situation med tech and health IT companies face in healthcare: The maker of a particular technology has more than 75% market share; they are the undisputed market leader.  unseat_pull_the_rug_from_underWhen their device or software was introduced 5 years ago, it was groundbreaking. Now, it’s the standard. But you have something better.

How do you effectively disrupt the market leader’s longstanding domination and win significant market share? The answer lies in the hearts and minds of the clinicians using the technology. You need to carefully and precisely determine which emotional chord will open customers’ minds in order for them to consider moving from the market leader’s technology (the “status quo”) to your new and presumably better innovation.

To reveal the right emotional chord, you must ask the right questions: Are they happy with the status quo? Do they perceive any problems? Can they envision a better state?  These kinds of questions will reveal the “set point,” i.e. where customers are before they know about your better device, service, or software.

In simple terms, there are four main set points based on the idea that customers are either satisfied or dissatisfied with the status quo technology, and they are or are not aware of a possible solution (or better state) a new technology might deliver. Once you know the set point, you need to identify the corresponding emotional chord, so that your messages will connect with customers and resonate at an emotional level. That resonance leads customers to feel understood, which will then open their minds to consider alternatives to the longstanding status quo.

Example: Let’s say customers are satisfied with the market leader’s status quo technology. They aren’t aware of any problems, so they certainly wouldn’t expect new solutions. Your job then is to identify the meaningful problem that: a) your customers will care about once they know about it, and b) your improved technology will solve. (And if no meaningful problem exists, then there’s really no need for your improvement, right? But that’s a different story!).

Once you determine the meaningful problem, be sure to verify customers do care about it enough to take action. Now you need to find the corresponding emotional chord. It could be frustration, as in “why didn’t I know about this problem for all these years!” Or it might be concern, as in “I hope this problem didn’t hurt our patient satisfaction scores!” Or embarrassment at not knowing about the problem. Or relief at knowing about it now. Or hope for a solution to the problem.

There are numerous possible emotional chords, and sometimes the difference between them is very nuanced, like frustration vs. concern in the example above. It’s really important to know with confidence precisely which emotional chord to tap into. Your message to tap into frustration will be quite different than messaging for concern or embarrassment or relief.

If you miss the mark on the emotional chord, then your customers will feel you just don’t get them. You will have missed your chance to open their minds to letting to of the market leader’s technology and to consider your innovation as a viable alternative. On the other hand, when you tap the right emotional chord, you may hear as we have, “Finally, someone understands what I deal with everyday!”  That deep connection is the magic that can unseat the dominant market leader and win you significant market share.

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More resources:

Why Selling New Technology into Hospitals is Hard: Overcoming the Status Quo Bias

The Emotional Hook: How to Win Your Customers’ Hearts

Why Health Tech Companies Should NOT Emulate Apple

“We want to be like Apple!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from teams innovating new products. What they mean is they want their new products to be sleek, attractive, and easy to use – something that does not come easy to most med device manufacturers.

The aspiration is good and noble. If fulfilled, the company is providing customers with things they want and love, improving healthcare, and making money.

However, Don Norman, my mentor, friend and former VP at Apple, makes a strong case for not emulating Apple any more, because at Apple, beauty is coming at the expense of function:

“Apple has gotten carried away by the slick, minimalist appearance of their products at the expense of ease of use, understandability, and the ability to do complex operations without ever looking at the manual. Today, the products are beautiful, but for many of us, confusing.”      -Don Norman

For the med device industry, the challenges are even greater because of the inherent complexity of most medical devices. In fact, many companies over-engineer devices with far more capabilities than customers want or need. We hear from clinicians and the C-suite time and time again that they’ll choose the workhorse machine that’s easy to use and provides the most needed functionality, over the uber-sophisticated, feature-laden device that can do more but is harder to use.

If, on top of providing too many features, designers, engineers, and product managers prioritize aesthetics and the “cool” factor over discoverability and ease of use, then clinicians and executives get even more turned off.

On the other hand, when the team puts the customer first and only provides features that solve meaningful problems customers care about, and makes them attractive and easy to use within the fast-paced clinical workflow, then they’re on the way to a winner.

So be like Apple was, when they practiced good design principles and made beautiful devices that were easy to use and love. And keep customers first!

The Better MVP: Why “Minimum Viable Products” Are Dead

The basic idea of a “minimum viable product” – popularized by Eric Ries and the Lean Startup movement – is good: Create just enough to validate that what you’re making meets a customer need. And it’s led to many hugely successful companies, like Dropbox and Zappos (more here by Vladimir Blagojevic).
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The problem we’ve seen is that “minimum viable product” can also lead to a product-centric mindset in which value to the customer takes a back seat to minimizing features. The dominant thinking is how little can we put in this product to be viable.

What’s the alternative? The intersection of “minimum viable product” and a different MVP we call “maximum value product” (others call it that too, like in this solid prezo by from Liquid Reality’s CEO Adam Smith).

“Maximum valuable product” is not about how many features you can pack into a new product. It is about how well can you solve whatever problem you’re addressing. That’s how you maximize value. The dominant thinking is not about how little, but how much; specifically how much of that particular problem you can solve for the customer.

The order and integration of the MVPs is critical. Here’s the 5 step sequence we recommend:

1) Maximum value: Start with the “maximum value product” perspective. Identify how much you value you can provide customers on a particular problem. Specify in details what aspects of the problem you’re solving, what benefit is created, and how important each is to customers.

2) Value validation: Validate with customers the meaningfulness of the problem you’re solving and have them rank order the importance of the benefits your product can provide.

3) Features: Make a list of what technology or features are needed for customers to experience each benefit and its value. Be sure to include low tech and high tech possibilities. Align features with the ranked benefits.

4) Minimum viability: Now bring in the Minimum Viable Product approach to decide what it will take to provide the required  features. Start with the features needed to deliver the most highly ranked benefit, then continue down the list. Think about trade-offs like this:

Option A: Do a good job at providing for the most important benefit, so that you’ll have enough resources to also provide for the second most important benefit.

Option B: Do a great job at providing for the most important benefit. Pour all your resources into that, and come back to the second most important benefit later.

5) Viability validation: Use lean and agile research techniques to get customer feedback on option A vs. Option B. Now you’re ready to take something to early adopters that has the optimal balance of providing value to customers and being viable to make.

Please share your experience with MVP vs. MVP!

3 Powerful “B4’s” that Put First Things First in Winning Innovation

Let’s say you need to come up with new products and services that will make a lot of money.  Here are 3 customer-centric principles that help you do first things first in new product innovation, and get far better results. We call them our “B4” principles (as in what comes “before” what).

Purpose B4 Profit: Your company exists to achieve a certain purpose (what Simon Sinek calls your “why”). Be clear and passionate about your purpose. And know that turning a profit is not it. Successfully fulfilling your purpose is how you make money; it will always entail satisfying desires of your customers. Which requires…

Customer B4 Product: It all starts with the customer.  The notion of putting customer desirability ahead of technical feasibility is a hallmark of Human-Centered Design.  Avoid the seduction of making things because you can, rather than because customers value what it does for them and will pay for it. This means…

Problem B4 Solution: First focus on identifying meaningful problems and unmet needs that customers care about before diving into technology and solutions. Even if you initially come up with a great idea of a new product, think through the lens of how it will improve the customers’ situation.

What is your experience practicing these “B4” principles?

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More here:

How to Get to Breakthrough Innovation: Desirability First!

New Product Innovation: How to Determine the Winners

“But We’ve Always Done It That Way” – Zen, Zero-Based Thinking, and a Fresh Approach