Leveraging Design Strategy to Drive Innovation

Insight Product Development is a design innovation company. What this means is that everything we do is designed to drive innovation and a focus to design and development. For decades, Insight has been helping clients identify and define what to do and then how to do. This series on Design Strategy is more focused on defining how we help clients figure out what to do. This early stage activity is all about discovering and defining innovation opportunities. In this article, we will walk through details and examples on what Design Strategy is, and how our teams are leveraging Design Strategy to drive innovation to provide value to our clients.

What is Design Strategy?

So starting at the beginning, Design Strategy can mean different things to different people. At Insight, Design Strategy is ultimately an input and tool for decision making. It combines our understanding of people and the ecosystem around them with our creative design expertise to both inform and inspire innovation. Our Design Strategy offering is intended to support strategic product and portfolio planning – helping our clients decide what to do (and develop) next.

When is Design Strategy most effective?

Design Strategy is most effective when applied early in the innovation planning process. By definition it should happen well before new product development stage gates, as the intent is to help define a strategic concept vision – in terms of capabilities, benefits and attributes, or ‘the what’ – that will drive new product development efforts. Similarly, it’s typically an input into business case development, as Design Strategy can help inform ‘the who’ (what types of users and stakeholders are most likely to yield value from an innovation), a key input to defining the addressable market.

What does Design Strategy look like?

We often work with pharmaceutical and medical technology companies looking to optimize or redefine the user experience through innovation. Typically focused on a drug/ product category and/ or a clinical practice, we may find ourselves across clinics and homes to help reinvent infusion therapy, in ORs seeking ways to advance orthopedics, or in clinical labs identifying ways to enhance or expedite diagnostics.  Below are a few more specific examples of recent Design Strategy engagements:

A pharmaceutical client was seeking ways to meaningfully differentiate a drug delivery platform and the experience surrounding its use. To do so, our team mapped the patient journey associated with chronic disease management. by utilizing longitudinal touchpoints (both in-person and remote), we identified key decision points, challenges and triggers that impact the patient experience and adherence, leading to a series of product, software and service/ education solutions aimed to ease transitional moments and physical and emotional barriers to timely treatment.

A medical device OEM that had recently undergone a series of mergers and acquisitions was seeking ways to integrate and fill out  their cumulative medication management portfolio. By deconstructing the medication management process within acute care environments (from procurement in the hospital pharmacy to administration on the floor), we identified gaps in process efficiency, safety and consistency, leading to a series of offerings – from quick wins to longer term investments – to both enhance and extend the existing portfolio.

An R&D-heavy medtech company was seeking to better understand market opportunities for a new coagulant technology. Through an in-depth understanding of current practices and tools associated with significant patient blood loss, we were able to identify relevant use cases and applications for the emergent technology, leading to a new-to-market technological advancement targeting first responders and trauma care.

Across each of these engagements, we leverage applied ethnography (the combination of behavioral observation within its naturally occurring environment and in-depth interviews) to identify user-driven, goal-oriented opportunities to both direct and inspire divergent concept exploration. With a deep understanding of user context, needs, goals, expectations, current frustrations and workarounds we uncover a broad range of opportunities to improve and often redefine the user experience. Through our design and development expertise, we’re able to readily translate these opportunities into early ideas that weigh experiential benefits with the business and technical factors required to realize an idea. This balance increases the probability for later success, while also fostering internal alignment along the way. Leading concepts are often introduced to potential end-users and relevant stakeholders (i.e. decision makers) to understand relative value, preferences and the why’s behind them, ultimately informing down-selection and iterative refinements. This approach yields an early blueprint for future innovation, grounded in market needs, organizational competencies and technical feasibility.

Why leverage Design Strategy?

Design Strategy can be a compelling way to make informed decisions about what’s next – specifically, how innovation can best be leveraged to make the most meaningful impact. Our human-centered approach helps ensure market adoption prior to any significant development investment, providing a low-risk means of effective strategic product and portfolio planning.

Take a look at the follow up to this article, where we explore our Strategic Concept Vision that enables our clients to understand potential benefits and unforeseen drawbacks that help inform a business case.

About the Author

Carolyn Rose

As Insight’s director of research and strategy, Carolyn Rose has developed and continues to evolve insight’s strategy offering to ensure the greatest value is delivered to our clients. Carolyn leads interdisciplinary teams employing Design Strategy across Insight’s client base. She also is a frequent author and speaker on  the topics of design strategy and the identification of user-driven opportunities.