Innovation is key to achieving true differentiation and sustaining a competitive advantage. This has never been truer than in today’s rapidly evolving economy, requiring companies to develop new products and streamline processes all while delivering increased value to customers.

R&D investment has never been higher. According to PwC’s 2017 13th annual study on Global Innovation, total R&D spending by the Global Innovation 1000 (the world’s 1,000 largest corporate R&D spenders) exceeded $700B for the first time. Consistently in the top three, healthcare is poised to be the highest R&D spending industry by 2018.

While innovation is a top priority for healthcare companies in general, and in vitro diagnostic (IVD) manufacturers in particular, it continues to be a frustration for organizations in its execution.

Increased spending does not necessarily equate to innovation success

Every year since 2005, the Global Innovation 1000 study has concluded that there is no correlation between R&D spend levels and overall corporate financial performance and long-term success. There has been limited overlap between those companies identified as the top 10 R&D spenders with those viewed as the most innovative. This is underscored by the fact that no healthcare companies have made it into the top 10 innovators list.

When surveyed by PwC regarding their innovation processes, more than half of the respondents consider their organizations only marginally effective at generating ideas and converting them to commercialized products.

What is at the root of this lack of correlation between investment and innovation?

It is not a deficiency in gathering a variety of customer information. Given the “big data revolution,” vast amounts of voice of customer (VOC) and market data can be collected and analyzed at sophisticated levels and unprecedented speed. Despite this, 40 percent of companies polled by PwC cited “customer insight” as a top challenge.

In the Harvard Business Review article, Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”, the authors posit that the problem centers around data analysis seeking patterns; it is these structured correlations that are leading companies down the wrong development pathways. What they propose instead is to adopt a human-centered approach to uncover the actual “jobs to be done” (i.e., what users are really trying to achieve in their daily lives).

Identifying the “jobs to be done”

How can companies identify these “jobs” in customers’ lives, and then innovate products, services and processes to address those needs? Steve Jobs summarized the answer as, “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”

Taking a human-centered approach to understand users and the challenges of their environment can provide those customer insights. It can inform IVD product development efforts to focus on solutions that make a difference to both customers and business stakeholders.

Starting product development with the customer experience that needs to be delivered is becoming increasingly necessary for IVD manufacturers. It not only maximizes the opportunity for quality innovation, but also minimizes the chance a product design will need to be revisited later, costing time and money.

Additionally, achieving CLIA waiver is becoming increasingly necessary as testing situations move closer to the patient. A human-centered approach to development helps ensure that a product’s design will successfully meet both the FDA requirements for simple and error-free use, as well as customer expectations of a streamlined and intuitive interaction similar to consumer electronics.

User-focused product definition for IVD

An optimal user-centered IVD product development process should begin with problem definition (designing the right thing), followed by the next key stage, product definition (designing that thing right).

Starting the development process by first defining the problem to be addressed ensures that the ultimate product solution is meaningful, effective and a marked improvement over what currently exists. Creating a high quality, differentiated and truly innovative solution calls for exploring human needs in context, addressing the questions of: “What are the problems that are worth solving? How do we arrive at solutions that add value by being helpful and useful for people?”

In the current IVD environment of ever-increasing business competitiveness and technological advancement, creating a great customer experience with the “job to be done” has become an essential element of commercial success for a new product. Companies must develop innovations that meet the specific needs of the market, but many organizations are grappling with the best processes to do so. Creating an IVD product starting with experience design can uncover insights that lead to innovation, save companies time and money by developing the right product the first time, and prevent a usability issue or other problem from cropping up late in the process.

Well executed, experience design results in more engaged and loyal customers and greater market share. To quote Malcom Forbes, “the best vision is insight.”

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  1. The 2017 Global Innovation 1000 study. Strategy&. Retrieved 30 March 2018.