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Bio Technology : July 2009
AusBioEVENTS each year. In the past, these therapies were often novel, but competition is now more commonplace. Furthermore, it is sometimes difficult for end users to distinguish benefits and differences amongst competing therapies. Often, a superior technology is no longer enough to stay ahead. For example, there are several medications now available to treat RA, and the best clinical profile does not necessarily win the most patients. With patients acting more like consumers, we see people being drawn by other aspects of therapy, such as better delivery devices, better materials to teach administration techniques, better programs to stay on a medications long-term for maximum therapeutic benefits, or better mediation of the many people teaming together to support therapy. Figuring out which peripheral services a medicine’s consumers require cannot always be foreseen in a lab or office. For this, we must watch consumers in their typical contexts for clues into what people might need and want. It is critical that we look not only for needs, but that we also develop a rich understanding of our consumers and their behavior in hopes of understanding what they might want. Consider how many biotech companies are producing products and services that now require more intimate relationships with consumers. The drugs and procedures developed by this industry are generally used to treat fairly serious, life-altering conditions, and the medical devices developed by biotech are often used by physicians in high-stakes settings. Additionally, fields like genomics are changing the way we understand ourselves and the therapeutic choices we make. The companies that get ahead are likely to be the ones that can connect with their end users beyond basic usability and functionality. When a company strives to touch people emotionally and create deep and unexpected bonds to its offering, people will become evangelists – and their positive energy is likely to spread. The proliferation of genetic sequencing companies is an example of companies striving to reach their consumers at a deeper level. Some of these companies have designed offerings that take their product out of the scientific world. Some go into the world of glamour and glitz, while others wander into the worlds of wellness and supportive hand-holding. In many cases, consumers are unlikely to unravel the complex scientific differences between the various offerings, and so companies strive to differentiate by something else that is compelling and meaningful to users. At the AusMedtech 2009 workshop, we walked the audience through a series of exercises that showed how design thinking can be applied to the growing social challenge of teen obesity. In the workshop, we presented a video of obese teens in their typical environments to establish a research foundation. We then demonstrated how design thinking can help translate that research to Arna Ionescu designs solutions to improve healthcare at the global design and innovation firm IDEO. She also teaches at the Institute of Design at Stanford University. hundreds of ideas that then lead to plans for potential new offerings. Any company can leverage this process, regardless of where its offer currently stands. Industry leaders can leverage design thinking to connect deeply with current customers and cement their loyalty. Emerging players can leverage design thinking to launch products and services that change paradigms and quickly draw attention to real benefits. Those in the middle can enhance their offering to maximise the positive impact on people’s lives. Regardless of whether your final audience includes patients, healthcare providers, scientists, technicians or regular consumers, the same design thinking principles apply. Get out there, spend time with your users, and understand what they really need. Resist becoming complacent or overly accepting of what your users tell you or what you think you know about them. Rely on design thinking to steer your company or organisation towards products and services that not only work and satisfy needs, but also genuinely attract end users. Volume 19 • Number 2 • July 2009 Australasian BioTechnology 53