Category Archives: innovation

Co-Creation: Beware Asking Too Much of Customers

I am a strong proponent of co-creation. My consulting firm ResearchWorks does a lot of co-creation projects focused on product innovation and marketing in the health space. Done right, co-creation can be a very powerful, customer-centric way of growing a business.
However, co-creation can also lead to a harmful abdication of responsibility.  This happens when companies expect customers to essentially design products or invent solutions, or to create marketing messages. Not their expertise, not their job.
Identifying solutions and designing products and services is the responsibility of the product manager or program manager. Creating effective messaging is the job of marketing and communication professionals. However, customers can play a major co-creative role and inspire tremendous change when they’re engaged in the right ways and at the right time.
We advise clients to keep customers as co-creators in the space of their experience and what they can validly do – identifying meaningful problems and unmet needs, envisioning what a better situation would look and feel like, and reacting to and improving upon products and messaging we present to them.
Those are ways customers can meaningfully co-create in order to inspire better products and services that benefit all stakeholders.

The Dot: Brilliant Low Cost “Wearable” Leverages Culture to Save Indian Women’s Lives

A new take on wearable technologies: The familiar red forehead dot – or bindi – has been a traditional symbol of beauty in India and other countries in Southeast Asia for centuries. Now the cultural adornment doubles as a slow-release iodine patch, potentially saving the lives of millions of women in rural communities with iodine deficiencies and no other access to the much-needed supplement.

Continue reading The Dot: Brilliant Low Cost “Wearable” Leverages Culture to Save Indian Women’s Lives

The Painful Cost of Disruptive Innovation: Uber & Cancer?

“It’s like a cancer,” he said. I was in a limo in DC asking the driver who owns a fleet of town cars and vans, what he thought of Uber. He told me his wife just had a recurrence of a serious cancer and he likened it to Uber’s relentless and heartless intrusion into his transportation business.

Bottom line, Uber has tremendously disrupted his business and he is pissed. What most people admire and call a brilliant business model (UberX), he considers unfair and unjust. And he’s not alone, as this Bloomberg article points out.

This is what disruptive innovation does. It stirs things up, hurts the status quo. It causes pain and suffering to people invested in the product or service that was disrupted.

Some pivot and take advantage of the disruption. Others get protective of their turf and fight back. Sometimes they have enough power to fend off or minimize the disruption.  Like with stethoscopes, which should by now be a relic, replaced by high-resolution hand-held ultrasound devices, as Eric Topol points out.

And sometimes it’s a long drawn-out war. Like between some med device companies and durable medical equipment suppliers (DMEs), many of whom may be replaced by other distribution outlets coupled with new patient monitoring systems.

Is disruptive innovation bad? No. By definition, it serves a higher good. But we need to acknowledge it does cause pain to some. We can disrupt with compassion for those who are supplanted. It keeps us all a little more human.

The Biggest Mistake with Most Med Device and Life Science Customer Research

I put on a workshop last week at the WLSA Convergence Summit on how to determine which new ideas to invest in — and which to avoid.

One key idea was the right way and wrong way to get and leverage customer input for new medical devices.

Wrong:  Ask customers what features they want in your products or services.

Right:  Ask customers what outcomes they want from using your product or service.

Most of the time, when we ask customers about solutions, we are abdicating our responsibilities and setting ourselves up for failure.  It is not the responsibility of customers to figure out what features will provide the experience they desire or achieve the result the want. What customers can meaningfully talk about is what experience and outcomes they want. Once we know that, then we can back into why those outcomes are important. Then we translate that understanding into a product requirement and validate its accuracy and importance.

For example, we might hear respiratory therapists tell us in focus groups that they want the mask to be a certain shape. That’s a solution. If we took that solution at face value and passed it on to the engineers and designers as a recommendation, we would likely be misleading them because we don’t yet know the desired outcome. Instead we dig deeper to reveal why RTs want the mask to be a certain shape and what outcome it will achieve. We learn that the outcome is about maximizing patient comfort in older patients, not about minimizing air leakage. We can then propose and validate a measurable requirement designed to achieve that outcome, such as “Maximize comfort for older patients wearing a mask for more than one week.”  Now the engineers and designers take over to bring the requirement to fruition.

Bottom line, asking the right questions gets customer input that leads to better products that solve meaningful customer problems.


Resource for more info:  HBR article about designing useful outcomes-focused customer research.