Archive for the Tag 'World Innovation Forum'

MinuteClinic’s Service Design Innovation

Point: Take the customer’s perspective when designing a new service model.

Story: Some of the best innovations are brilliant in their after-the-fact simplicity. Take MinuteClinic.  We all know “an ounce of prevention…” yet most of us still don’t go to the doctor for preventative care because of the cumbersome process of a office visit: scheduling an appointment, taking time off work, waiting in the doctor’s office for unknown amounts of time, sitting in the midst of other hacking/sneezing people, and being unsure how much the visit will cost.  Worse, the doctor’s advice is often the standard nostrums of “take two aspirin, eat right, drink plenty of fluids, get some rest” that didn’t require the costs and hassles of the office visit.

Michael Howe, former CEO of MinuteClinic, became known as one of the top 10 innovators of the last decade by tackling those problems and designing a straightforward solution.  Howe applied the retail concept to healthcare, putting a mini medical clinic inside a pharmacy.  All the elements of his new service model focused on the customer:

  • Pharmacy locations are easy to get to and are easily integrated into the customer’s day
  • The clinics are open nights and weekends, expanding convenience for time-pressed customers
  • Customer wait time is no more than 15 minutes, and no appointments are necessary.
  • MinuteClinic posts all its services on a “menu” with the prices listed for each service

The key behind Howe’s innovation is realizing that the old model of healthcare delivery focused on delivering healthcare to people born 1925-44. But the values of this “Greatest Generation” aren’t the same as the Boomer generation. Boomers don’t want to be directed — they want to be engaged in the healthcare process.  Likewise, Gen-X’ers (born 1965-1984) want self-sufficiency, convenience and immediate access. They, along with Boomers, constitute MinuteClinic’s target customers.
MinuteClinic focuses on providing a standardized set of services that can be provided by nurse practitioners, thus lowering the overall costs of the services.  The company doesn’t claim to compete with the expertise of Mayo Clinic. Rather, it focuses on minor illness exams, minor injury exams, skin condition exams, wellness & prevention, vaccinations, and health condition monitoring. If customers have a serious or unusual ailment, MinuteClinic will recommend that they seek more in-depth medical attention.

In 2006, CVS acquired MinuteClinic. I asked Howe if the acquisition meant there could be more data integration between the two merged companies. His answer was that although the regulatory statutes prevent the sharing of information like prescriptions without patient approval, it was possible to educate patients. “We can use the retail environment to inform patients of alternatives to use for preventative medicine,” Howe said. For example, during the cold and flu season, MinuteClinic could help patients by producing a list of suggested treatments to make it through flu season.

What will be the next healthcare delivery innovation? Using Howe’s model of generations and the different values which each generation has, Howe sees that Millennials (born 1985-2004) are just beginning to understand their needs and that they want technology-based connections. In that future, the mantra will move from the Boomers’ “Engage Me” to the Millennials’ “Connect Me” demand for technology-based connections to their cell phones, laptops and the digitized world of social networks.


  • Look for products and services that have become costly and underutilized due to years of accumulated complexities
  • Look for generational differences in expectations, tolerances, and preferences
  • Create a solution that increases convenience and certainty
  • Create a solution that reduces complexity and cost
  • Address 80% of the problem with something simple rather than 100% of the problem with something complex

Michael Howe spoke at the World Innovation Forum, held June 8-9, 2010 at the Nokia Theater in New York City. He also presented an online seminar in the HSMAmericas series, which can be accessed here.
See also

No Comments »Case study, How-to, Innovation

Low-Cost Testing Tools Enable Innovation of Personalization

Point: Lower-cost testing and diagnostic tools mean new opportunities for the innovation of personalization. 23andmewif

Story: The declining cost of genetic assays provides a new basis for innovative products and services in medicine. The company 23andMe exemplifies this trend. The company provides a fascinating personalized service. Here’s how it works: a customer submits a saliva sample to the company, and the company analyzes the person’s DNA. In particular, 23andMe identifies common genetic variations and provides the customer with a list of the genetic variations he or she has. Further, 23andMe explains the likely implications of those variations. For example, one variation might indicate a person’s increased chance of getting a disease, like diabetes. Other variations might give clues to the person’s sensitivity to various drugs.

For the individual, 23andMe provides reports as well as forums where people can converse with others who share similar genetic patterns.

But 23andMe doesn’t just providing an innovative service — the company uses the data it gets from customers as a foundation for future innovation. Here’s how: 23andMe aggregates each individual’s data to enable analysis of broader patterns. In particular, this aggregation can lead to new lines of research that support personalized medicine.

Personalized medicine could change which drugs people take, and it could affect which drugs make it to the market. Today, pharmaceuticals that are beneficial to a subset of the population aren’t approved for use or are pulled from the market because of increased risk of adverse reactions in a different subset of the population. If genetic testing can identify which consumers would respond well to a drug and which might react poorly to a drug, then more drugs can stay on the market, available to those who would not have adverse reactions to using them.

More broadly, the story illustrates how a new dimension of low-cost testing or diagnostic technology can create a new ecosystem for innovative services and products. Lowering the cost of data on the customer improves the fit of products to customers. This increases satisfaction, reduces product returns, and enables higher profits on smaller niche customer populations. Thus, the data enables incremental innovation of new variant products and as well as more radical innovation such as 23andMe.


  • Look for new low-cost technologies that enable the collection of new data on customers or enable customers to know more about their individuals needs.
  • Consider how to leverage that deeper personalization data through personalized products, better segmentation of services, or affinity groups for open innovation
  • Reconsider failed innovations or products — would the prior flop succeed if a low-cost test could identify the right customers for that product?

For more information: Linda Avey, co-founder of23andMe presented at the World Innovation Forum May 5-6, 2009

3 Comments »Case study, Innovation

Job-Focused Innovation

Point: When innovating, look at the “job” the customer hires a product to do
Story: At the World Innovation Forum, Clayton Christensen cautioned companies against focusing only on customers when they create incremental innovations. Instead, he recommended understanding the job that the product is hired to do by those customers.

To illustrate the “product’s job” concept, Christensen described a fast food chain’s milkshake sales. At the demographic level, many milkshake buyers are working-age people. But the demographic similarity is not what drives people to buy milkshakes. (When the company researched demographically similar people, the results did not improve sales.) In fact, a focus on age and gender missed the job that milkshakes perform — why do people “hire” (buy) the milkshake? What job do they want the milkshake to perform?

Through further research, the fast food chain found that about half of milkshake sales occurred in the morning. These buyers came into the restaurant by themselves, bought a milkshake and nothing else, and drove away with the milkshake rather than consuming it at the restaurant. Looking deeper, researchers learned that the buyers were commuters, and the job of the milkshake was to provide distraction on a long commute and to tide them over until lunch. For this job, the milkshake competed with bananas, donuts, breakfast bars, and coffee. Commuters hired milkshakes over the competition because milkshakes take a long time to eat, don’t slosh or leave crumbs, and can be held in one hand or be put into a cupholder during the drive.

A very different group of milkshake buyers came in the afternoon and evening. These buyers were predominately dads with little kids. The dads were buying milkshakes for an entirely different job: that of assuaging guilt over not having enough time with their kids. Kids liked the milkshakes, and the dads could finally say “yes” to something and feel good about themselves.

Understanding the jobs people hire milkshakes to do is important when it comes to incremental product improvements. The two jobs for milkshakes call for diametrically different innovations. Thicker milkshakes would delight the bored commuter, but they would frustrate time-pressed dads because kids take too long to finish thicker shakes.

Simply put, innovations that would boost sales in one group would displease the other group. Commuters might want improvements like increased thickness, small added fruit chunks, and a grab-and-go purchase system that lets customers buy a milkshake without standing in the regular food line. In contrast, dads might want a smaller, thinner milkshake that provides fun but quick treat for the kids. The strategy for innovation in this case may be to have two different shake formulations: one for the morning and one for the afternoon/evening.

The point is to understand WHY someone buys the product, not WHO buys the product. The demographics of milkshake buyers are less important than the fact that one segment buys the product as a distraction and protracted meal while the other buys it as a sweet attraction and quick desert.


  • Delve into the job(s) of the product, not the consumer(s) of the product.
  • Segment by purpose, not person.
  • Identify and innovate around job performance dimensions rather than product performance dimensions

1 Comment »Entrepreneurs, How-to, Innovation, New Product Development, Opportunity, Strategy

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