Insight or Diagnosis: Are you innovating with your consumer?

Insight or Diagnosis: Are you innovating with your consumer?

Last week, we had the pleasure of joining an open innovation workshop organized by Astrocyte Consulting, looking at how to drive patient engagement in healthcare.  This sector is embracing the need for a meaningful shift towards more customer focus in its innovation (see Tim Mustill’s recent blog “Are we really, truly embracing patient centricity?”

It was an inspiring session, with experts from different areas of health and pharma sectors discussing the challenges of driving “patient-centric” innovation and sharing early case studies of success.

As Untapped, we shared the principles of how we approach consumer-centric innovation and found that many of the core ideas were very relevant to the challenges.  We talked about how we use Story Thinking to keep the consumer as hero through the journey to a better outcome.  This is a very different perspective for innovation from the traditional heritage of healthcare where the physician has often been the hero with power and knowledge.

We also discussed how to embrace the often-messy approach of co-creation with consumers on early prototypes, long before you do the quantitative “validation” step.  This can ensure that you generate a product that truly delights at both an emotional and functional level.  And we saw some great examples of consumers doing this for themselves when the industry wasn’t engaging with them – Tim Omer, “citizen health hacker”, has created his own diabetes monitoring system when frustrated with the lack of consumer-centric options available.

Reflecting on this workshop, however, there is also a big lesson for consumer-centric innovators.   There is no doubt that everyone embraces the need for consumer insight in innovation– the word is ubiquitous, as any quick look at innovation forums or discussion will show.  We all think we do insight very well.

The big question is how you treat that insight.  Very often, it is seen as a “diagnosis” of the consumer – we have, like the physicians of old, checked the box of the consumer consultation.  And, having discovered the symptoms, we then want to use our expertise and skill to deliver an innovation “treatment”, no doubt tested in a quantitative trial, which we hope will get the consumer to a better outcome.

This is not the role of a good insight.  It is not a one-off diagnosis of the consumer need or desire, which allows us to then go away and cleverly think up the best solution, then test it in a trial that measures surface reactions and present it as the next miracle for the consumer.

At Untapped, we believe that in order to innovate successfully, we should treat it as the start of a journey together with the consumer to get to a better outcome.  A good insight gives us permission to work with the consumer on early ideas for a product or service, using their expertise in the usage experience and our expertise in developing new products and services.  We need to truly embrace co-creation work, working with and refining our product models and designs.  We call this product modelling.

Only by doing this will we really understand the emotional and functional jobs that the product must do for the consumer, understand the context of habit changes, adoption and frustrations that can come with new products and create together with the consumer something that delights and makes a difference in their lives.

Co-creation work is not easy and can often be messy.  You need to work with the right techniques, the right type of consumers and have an agile product development mindset that can adapt and respond to the iterative learning.  Often we get impatient to just find the “winning” product with a statistically significant rating preference.   But this takes us back to seeking the “cure” for our diagnosis – rather than using the insight to co-create a better, more meaningful experience.

As the healthcare sector looks to embrace more patient-centric approaches, it’s a good reminder that consumer innovators must avoid diagnosing the consumer and innovating for them – and instead, using insights as the first step in innovating with them.

If you want to find out how to use insights to co-create a delightful innovation with your consumer, we would love to hear from you!

Suzanne Allers
Suzanne Allers
[email protected]

Suzanne loves to apply creative and analytical thinking to connect the worlds of the consumer and technology, leading to breakthrough product design and communication.

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