The Sick Care Drill

NOVEMBER 03, 2016
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA
I spend some time in the mountains of Colorado, so I was looking for an altimeter. That's it. I just wanted a device that would measure altitude with some reasonable degree of accuracy so I could use it as an outdoor navigation tool along with a map and a compass.

Like most, I went on Amazon, ordered what I thought I wanted that fit my price range and it arrived a few days later. What I got was akin to a VCR clicker that was so complicated to program and decipher and had so many features I did not want, and I decided to return it. At least I tried. By the time I had to deal with re-shipping and restocking (whatever that is), it would cost more than what I paid for it.

Jobs theory is not a new book about the iconic entrepreneur. Rather, it is the name used by Clayton Christensen to describe his latest approach to innovation. In his view, the only question that really matters for organizations and companies is "What job does our customer or stakeholder want us to do"? I just wanted the thing to simply tell me the altitude in feet without having to click through multiple screens and resets.

A recent McKinsey poll of global executives finds that the vast majority value innovation as “extremely important” to their growth strategies, “yet a staggering 94% were unsatisfied with their own innovation performance.” This shortfall comes despite the fact that “businesses have never known more about their customers,” and appear to have “structured and disciplined” systems in place for putting all that data to good use. Consequently, Christensen argues, we need a different approach.

Many biomedical and sick care organizations are grappling with the same problem, despite their insistence that big data will lead them to the Promised Land.

  • Biopharma and medtech companies are trying to find out the jobs doctors want them to do
  • Hospital systems and doctors and trying to find out the job patients want them to do
  • Hospitals who employ physicians are trying to find out what jobs their employees want them to do and vice versa
  • Health insurance companies are trying to find out what job their patient-customers want them to do
  • Academic researchers who are trying to engage internal and external stakeholders are trying to find out what job they want them to do
  • Educators are trying to find out what job their students and their parents who pay the bills want them to do
  • University development professionals want to know what job their donors and “philanthropreneurs” want them to do
  • Entrepreneurs want to know what job their customers want them to do
  • Accelerators and incubators want to know what job their teams want them to do
  • Sick care innovation centers want to know what job their sponsors want them to do
Finding the right product-market mix is about creating a value proposition for specific customer or stakeholder segments. The challenge is to create a solution that does the job, relieves the pain, and delivers the expected gains for a given customer.

As mentioned, noted economist Theodore Levitt was fond of telling his students, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”  Too many people are selling too many drills. We need "hole" product solutions.

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