Cannes, France – Andrew Spurgeon, ECD at Langland, turned in his guru badge on the stage of Lions Health. He said, working in this era of acceleration, when everything must be delivered faster, agencies no longer have the time to send sets of art directors and copywriters off to solve problems in insolation. Instead, they need new processes and rituals that get to numerous, more powerful ideas faster.
At Langland, they use a roundtable approach to problem solving. Cross-functional teams come together to fill the funnel of ideas. Everyone in the room is expected to put an idea on the table.
Shwen Gwee, Head of Digital Strategy, Global Clinical Operations at Biogen, stepped up to share what he’s learned about faster, bolder ideation working with MIT’s Hacking Medicine.
He started with his three personal mantras:
- Meet the needs of other people
- We can’t solve this alone: No matter what vertical we’re in, healthcare is a continuum for our patient. They go from one experience to the next.
- Healthcare innovation is in the hands of the startups
There was a time, Gwee said, when our industry had some of the most admired companies in the world. Our leaders were talking about patient centricity long before it led headlines. John Merck emphasized putting patients before profits in the 1950s.
Today, it’s a different story. The latest Edelman Trust barometer found that 8 in 10 consumers believe that the pharmaceutical industry puts profits over people. And while technology creates rapid change every two years, our industry is on the exact opposite trajectory.
In that environment, we need to stop trying to be innovative, Gwee said. Innovation is a solution in search of a problem. We need to think like a startup instead.
The Hacker Mindset
A critical part of that startup thinking is a hack-mindset. Specifically, the creative application of ingenuity – like this favorite firetruck hack from the MIT team.
“If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his actions, 'This sucks. I'm going to do my own thing'.” – Yvon Chouinard
Gwee is part of that team now. He works with MIT’s Hacking Medicine, a student-run organization comprised of both current enrollees and community members. In four years, they’ve created more than 15 companies.
They team follows three basic steps to create:
- Break it down
- Build it up
- Make it better
Breaking it down starts with solving a real problem.
“You have to solve a problem that people actually have. But it's not always a problem that they know they have, so that's tricky.” - Joshua Schachter.
Gwee said that the internet is an excellent learning lab for those insights:
- Search is about intent – and quantity of that need
- Social is where people go to complain – and show the pain points that need to be solved
- Forums are where deep and dynamic conversations change people’s perceptions
In the startup world, building it up is all about experimentation. That means moving from a launch and wait behavior to an interactive cycle. “Don’t invest so much time and money right at the start,” Gwee said, “but learn along the way.”
Finally, make it better by pivoting and responding to how people are really using a product. Some of the most successful companies we rely on every day used to be something else entirely:
- Facebook was a Hot or Not competitor
- Youtube was a video dating site
- Instagram was a Foursquare competitor