How did Lexus meet the challenge of rolling out training to launch a new vehicle quickly and effectively?
Lexus, a division of Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), wanted to create a digital tool that could quickly ramp up its sales team on two new models in the highly competitive market for sports sedans and crossover SUVs.
Lexus wanted an app that could be a self-learning tool for dealer associates and also provide consumers researching new vehicles with an engaging and educational experience. The dealer associates needed a pocket guide that would provide quick, one-tap access to key selling points and specs, as well as detailed vehicle data and competitor stats. But in order to appeal to a consumer audience and build desire for the Lexus brand, the app would need to support a much more immersive, brand-centric experience.
Lexus partnered with BeyondCurious to develop a platform that could speak to both audiences and simultaneously support the new vehicle launch across mobile, tablet, and desktop platforms.
BeyondCurious sought to create an experience that exuded the luxurious promise that is synonymous with the Lexus brand. "We wanted the app to reflect the craftsmanship of a Lexus vehicle, and in a way extend the Lexus experience to the user’s hand held device or desktop." said Jeremy Milbourne-Clarke, lead designer on the BeyondCurious team.
So the challenge from a design perspective was to provide a truly compelling visual and engaging experience for consumers while allowing sales associates to take a much deeper dive. To do so, BeyondCurious applied our own agile design process through which we design a small element of the experience, test the outcome, incorporate user feedback, and adjust accordingly throughout the process. In working with Ming-Jou Chen, Dealer Development Communications Manager at Lexus College, we were very fortunate to have a client who was willing to pivot when necessary in order to arrive at the best outcome rather than a pre-defined solution.
The design immediately immerses the viewer in the Lexus experience, providing one-click access to 360-degree views of the vehicles and detailed shots that convey the luxurious finish of the interior and sleek design of the exterior. For dealer associates, our design incorporated quick links and rollovers into the vehicle visuals, allowing dealer associates to reveal more in-depth details. Not only could dealer associates use the app as a self-learning tool, they were also able to share it with consumers, bookmark pages, or share videos via email to increase app reach. Dealers were also able to access the app via select kiosks displayed at sponsored events and showroom floors, both leading up to the launch and after. A timeline feature revealed details prior to launch allowing Lexus to use the app as a buzz-builder and to create desire with consumers.
By applying an agile approach, BeyondCurious was able to implement continual improvement that translated to a user-centered design. The ongoing improvements resulted in new features and functions, increased efficacy of the content, an extended shelf life, and a high rate of adoption and usage. Ming-Jou Chen said in Luxury Daily, “that the apps met Lexus's goal, of engaging and educating a broad audience.” The app proved popular with both dealer associates and consumers, garnering high marks on both Google Play and the Apple Store. And in February the app was awarded a Gold AVA Award for Creativity in the Web/Mobile design category.
Yesterday your customers loved Facebook, but now they love Snapchat, too. How do you make sure your products and experiences adapt to your customers' changing habits, especially when your customers live all over the digital world? The question arose recently when BeyondCurious CTO Vishal Agarwal and I were interviewed for a recently published Gigaom report, “Enticing The Everywhere Customer.” When asked about Customer Journey mapping (a tool in which a brand literally creates a map of its customers' touch points with the brand), I was quoted as saying, “I think less about taking a flat snapshot of a customer’s journey and more about creating a living story that morphs along with the customer’s experience. I added, “You need to be able to adapt when you discover that your customers are using Snapchat to look at branded content that disappears.”
How does a brand “create a living story” to inform product development? And how should brands be thinking about understanding their customers in a constantly evolving landscape? The answer resides in using fresh approaches to research your customers' journeys. Here are five approaches we use at BeyondCurious:
1) Go Where Your Users Are
Your potential customers are everywhere—on social networks, browsing digital media, and in brick-and-mortar stores. So when we do research, we go where the users are. If we are researching how customers use their mobile devices to showroom while in a brick-and-mortar store, we conduct the study in that setting with those customers. We do research with “everywhere customers” in their natural contexts, wherever that may be (in store, on line, at home, at work) because context informs their behaviors and needs.
2) Take a Targeted Approach
Customer journey maps are great when you have a fairly static, well-established customer experience. But when the journey is dynamic, interactive, and evolving, as is the case with new products and emerging experiences, the research needs to be laser-focused in order to be successful. Rather than attempting to map the whole known universe, we pick key routes, focusing on a single branch of a customer experience and understanding it deeply, then moving on to the next one.
3) Conduct Agile Research
The digital product development cycle moves at an incredibly fast pace. In response, we have adapted our approach and work in two-week sprints in order to make sure we're always on the right track. By focusing in this way, we eliminate inertia and bloat and maintain agility and adaptability in the process.
4) Be Ready to Pivot
Agile research allows us to pivot quickly. Two-week sprints enable us to react in real time to insights that the research has revealed, rather than having a key discovery two months into the project. Our research is iterative; so we are constantly testing new hypotheses, designs, platforms, or user routes and incorporating any learning. We divide research into manageable chunks, and keep our findings focused so that we don't get lost chasing needless data.
5) Go Deep
In spite of the fact that research is broken down into small chunks, our agile research approach allows us to go deep. Successive micro-research inquiries build on one another, resulting in in-depth knowledge of the user, the product, and the business. Additionally, we analyze both quantitative and qualitative data to understand the depth and breadth of a problem. Analyzing quantitative/qualitative data can mean identifying areas of inquiry with big data, then doing qualitative research to dig into the problem. Or relying on a quantitative/qualitative approach can mean testing qualitative insights for statistical relevance.
By implementing these five strategies, the BeyondCurious research team makes tangible improvements without delaying product development, working in a loop of continual improvement. We are constantly feeding research insights into the product development process -— testing, learning, pivoting, and refining along the way.
Notice something new about BeyondCurious?
We have unveiled a new logotype that captures the essence of who BeyondCurious is and how we operate as an innovation consultancy: bold, inventive, pragmatic, impactful, and relentless.
The clean and minimalistic appearance of the mark is a representation of how we make the complex simple.
- Inside the square logo mark, the negative space visually conveys the letter “B” while the open circle forms the letter “c” representing our company initials
- The “c” being made up of an open circle reflects our open-ended approach and the iterative process we use to develop solutions for our clients
- The light weight of the elements captures our energy and agility while the square that surrounds the elements conveys stability reflecting our reliability and accountability
During the design process we looked at a wide range of different brands for inspiration. Here are five companies that do a great job visually expressing their brand through their logos:
Red Bull's use of bright red and yellow visually reflects an excited or "alert feeling," which definitely accurately conveys the promise of this energy drink. The association with dueling bulls also creates a sense of tension and strength, increasing the appeal to its adrenaline-oriented audience.
Starbucks continues to reinvent itself in terms of brand and products. Throughout the years the brand has evolved from its humble beginnings to emerge as a much more polished version of the purveyor of coffee beverages with inordinately long and convoluted names. But, wisely, Starbucks never strays too far from the seductive siren that has formed the cornerstone of its brand from the outset.
COLORS was originally conceived to spread the message that "diversity is good." We can clearly see in the COLORS logo a face and eyes that infer the reaction of a reader to magazine content. Magazine co-founder Oliviero Toscani believes that magazines should use only unforgettable images. In the "O"s we can see that the reader's eyes are wide open, conveying any number of emotions, and portraying a reader who is clearly riveted.
Netflix, like Starbucks, continues to reinvents itself, and the brand recently updated its logo to reflect its changes. In 2014, with minimal fanfare, Netflix quietly rolled out a new version of its logo, ditching the dated 3D type treatment it had previously used. But you could be forgiven if you didn't notice this quiet yet intentional move away from the nostalgia of an old cinema marquee. What emerged was a new, much more clean and modern mark that reflects the fresh original content Netflix is now producing.
MIT Media Lab
MIT Media Lab's new identity, designed by Pentagram, consists of a visual glyph system that gives a separate identity to each of its 23 separate research labs but still forms a cohesive system that unifies all the labs under the umbrella identity of the Media Lab. Now, that approach is just plain smart.
What's in a logo? A well-designed logo expresses a company's essence — its personality and brand promise. But, a logo also needs to capture your attention and position a brand favorably in your mind.
Recent advancements in technology and the increasingly vast array of digital devices available has led to a huge transformation in both the fitness industry and healthcare. The availability of devices that can track everything from heart rate to fertility-levels means that consumers are now able to proactively monitor and improve their own health through these innovative technologies.
The evolution of smartphones, cloud databases, and advanced sensors, has put an exponentially increasing amount of data at our fingertips. Consumers now have more access than ever to individualized tracking and personal data points. This new era of “big data” has meant that the concept of the quantified self, self-knowledge through self-tracking, has flourished. Apps can use algorithms to translate large amounts of data into advice and suggestions, possibly replacing the interaction between a doctor and patient. As the quantified self continues to gain momentum, consumers continue to take more control over the type and cost of treatment they receive.
Four technologies with the potential to transform our health are:
Office IQ: Smart Workstations
Humanscale’s Office IQ uses sensors on workstations to give users insightful details on the risk of sitting for long periods of time. Humanscale, the leading designer of ergonomic work products, teamed up with Tome Software, an expert in sensor technology, to design a product they believe will influence daily workplace habits. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors in the desk and chair share data with a smartphone app, which then gives users recommendations on how often to stand and sit.
In July 2014 the Journal of National Cancer Institute found:
“When the highest levels of sedentary behavior were compared to the lowest, the researchers found a statistically significantly higher risk for three types of cancer ‒ colon, endometrial, and lung. Moreover, the risk increased with each 2-hour increase in sitting time, 8% for colon cancer, 10% for endometrial cancer, and 6% for lung cancer, although the last was borderline statistically significant. The effect also seemed to be independent of physical activity, suggesting that large amounts of time spent sitting can still be detrimental to those who are otherwise physically active.”
Sedentary Behavior Increases the Risk of Certain Cancers ‒ Journal of National Cancer Institute (Vol 106 Issue July 2014)
TempTraq: A digital thermometer for parents and children
Traditionally, thermometers were limited to in-person use. The school nurse takes a child’s temperature only after the child doesn’t feel well enough to attend class. And a parent’s childcare cannot extend past the home, as the child must be physically with the parent in order to administer the thermometer. TempTraq aims to change that with their wireless, wearable thermometer. It’s a peel-and-stick Bluetooth thermometer for busy parents who want to monitor their kids, especially when they’re sick. Using a mobile app, parents can monitor their child’s temperature by creating custom notifications that alert them when temperatures fall above or below a certain degree.
Self-awareness is key to health improvement. While consumers previously relied on personal trainers and nutritionists to give them full body assessments, in-home technologies like QardioBase eliminate the need for middlemen. QardioBase is a new kind of scale that measures body weight, body fat, bone and water composition, muscle density, as well as total body mass index (BMI). There’s even a mode that allows pregnant women to easily track their progress. Measuring less than one inch in height, QardioBase wirelessly syncs with a mobile app on both iOS and Android.
*QardioBase will be available in Spring 2015.
Muse: the Brain-Sensing Headband
We exercise our body, so why not exercise our mind too? Muse is a brain-sensing headband to train your brain. In the same way that we use repetitive physical exercises to strengthen our bodies, Muse applies this same concept to enhancing cognitive skills with focused attention training. It uses electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the electric activity produced by the brain’s neurons. Coupled with an application called Calm, users are guided through mental exercises that provide real-time feedback as they train.
The quantified self is transforming not just personal fitness and health, but also the fitness industry and healthcare. As more people become engaged, empowered and informed, the more likely they are to take control of their own health and ultimately, to influence the type and cost of the healthcare treatment they receive.
Photo credit: The Huffington Post
In a world of constantly emerging new technologies, what trends will have the biggest impact on our lives? There are numerous predictions about which technology will be the most transformative and game changing. We picked the top 10 based on their potential to create disruptive change in 2015.
1. Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) describes a landscape in which everyday physical objects connect with the Internet. When an inanimate object receives a digital footprint, that object becomes significantly more powerful as it can be shared and connected with people and places near and far. The IoT is shifting the way we use products. Canary is an all-in-one home security system that includes sensors and an HD video camera to monitor air temperature, quality, and sound. The systems employs machine learning to determine “normal activities,” sending you alerts through the Canary mobile app if these patterns change.
2. Predictive Analytics
If businesses could tell the future based on data they currently have, would they modify the way in which they did business? Of course they would. Organizations are using predictive analytics to extract specific information from mass data in order to anticipate future behavior patterns. Not only does this enhance business intelligence, but it also gives businesses the chance to identify risks as well as untapped opportunities. The biggest reason why businesses fail to employ predictive analytics is their lack of great data. After all, you can’t predict the future if you don’t know how consumers are currently spending their time and money.
3. Artificial Intelligence (Machine Learning)
Machine learning is a marriage between algorithms and data. In particular, it is a science in which computers are trained to analyze and interpret data without being explicitly programmed. With so much of our daily activities monitored through cell phones and internet searches, big data is transforming artificial intelligence, and specifically machine learning. Big brands like Google, Netflix, and Amazon use machine learning to provide recommendations based on your search history or recent online activity. Machine learning can be so complex that it powers driverless cars, or so simple that it completes sentences as you text.
Nanotechnology exists in a world so small that we cannot see it with the naked eye. Yet it has the potential to reshape our society on a grand and global scale. For starters, nanotechnology has the power to transform the automated self-assembly process. This has enormous potential for vertical industries, including retail, healthcare and energy. Imagine if nanotechnology decreased the cost of making computers by half; reduced drug manufacturing by three/fourths; or got rid of our dependence on fossil fuels?
5. Wearable World
Wearable technology provides consumers with the ability to gather and analyze extremely intimate data about their daily habits. Wearable devices also provide a convenience factor that attracts many buyers. For example, smart watches relay alerts from email and social media, share breaking news, as well as provide detailed information on the amount of steps you’ve taken in a day. They offer a connectedness coupled with independence, allowing users to look less at their cell phone. Wearable technology isn’t new by any means, but it is certainly evolving. With fashion as important as function, wearable devices will become a seamless part of our lives.
6. Mighty Batteries
Technology is advancing our world, but how far have we truly come if we still rely on wires and chords to power our devices? The National Institute of Standards and Technology announced earlier in 2014 that they were developing batteries from sodium-based, complex metal hydride. Not only would this make batteries more stable and powerful, but it could also make them cheaper. Improvements in battery technology will change the way electronics are designed and built.
7. Ambient Proximity
It’s not where a promotion is that matters; it is how close the promotion is located to you. Thanks to enhancements in ambient proximity technology, devices like beacons allow smartphone owners to interact more easily with their surroundings. Beacons are small transmitters using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) that push information back and forth between two connected devices in close proximity. Under Armour uses beacons to analyze how shoppers behave in their store, while Apple relies on beacons to increase their mobile payments.
8. Urban Mobility
The transportation industry has undergone massive disruption as innovation in urban mobility alters the way we travel. In particular, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft allow people to pay for and arrange a ride through a mobile app, eliminating the need for physical cash. Additionally, bicycle-sharing services like New York’s Citibikes, Washington D.C.’s Capital BikeShare, and Austin’s B-Cycle offer eco-friendly alternatives to driving. As more consumers adopt environmentally friendly ways of living, urban mobility will continue to experience massive change.
Accelerating checkout options is key for brands that want to enhance a shopper’s experience. No matter how great your product or service, you’ll upset and potentially lose customers if they are forced to wait in long lines. Panera Bread offers self-service machines where customers can bypass lines to order and purchase their meals. Not only are diners able to customize their meal by specifying exact preferences, but Panera also rewards them for using the self-service machines by giving them a free cookie. Through apps, both Taco Bell and Starbucks offer customers the option to order and pay for their items prior to picking them up.
10. Social Payments
Consumers enjoy convenience. We’re more connected than ever through mobile apps. Thus, the emergence of social payments seems quite fitting given how often we use social platforms. Snapchat recently launched Snapcash, an easy way for friends to exchange money within the text feature. How easy? By simply typing a dollar sign followed by a specific amount of money, you can send cash to friends. Another messaging app called Line released Line Pay, allowing users to purchase items and transfer money within the app. Additionally, some restaurants are adopting social payments so that diners can conveniently split bills.
BeyondCurious is an Innovation Consultancy. Learn more at www.beyondcurious.com
Credit: Jon-Eric Melsæter
Recently I was talking to a technologist friend who said that he thinks most companies are hesitant to include research into their design process because people fear the unknown. Call me naïve, but I was shocked to hear that. To me, while research may start with unknowns, its task is the discovery of knowledge. And knowledge is power -- especially knowledge about your target user. However, the more I thought about what he said, the more intrigued I became with the idea.
Stepping back, my technologist friend had a valid point. Research presents a wide and complex swath of unknowns, from “who should we talk to and how long will recruiting take?” to “what will we learn, and how will the research findings impact the design/dev cycle?” Traditional contextual qualitative research strikes fear into the hearts of many because getting from the unknown to the known has historically been a “black box” process that has taken months, been costly, and provided insights too late to be of much use. Research findings and their ramifications introduce too much instability for most to stomach.
But new technologies and adapted approaches to research are making it possible to understand and serve user needs while minimizing project instability. For example, remote testing tools, in-context recruiting tools, data analytics, and mobile data tracking all shorten the time between data gathering and insights. The trick is harnessing these tools in a way that increases speed while maintaining rigor.
At BeyondCurious, we have done this in part by borrowing some of the thinking and approaches behind agile software development and tailoring them to the research process. For example, rather than two or three month long projects that culminate with a research report, we conduct research in sprints. Just as in Scrum development methodology, where each sprint ends with the ability to ship a minimum viable product, each of our Agile Research sprints ends with a minimum viable set of findings on a specific area of inquiry. Sprints are successive, allowing for rapid pivoting, and enabling the team to follow or jettison lines of inquiry as the product develops. The successive nature of the sprint methodology also means that our knowledge base about the target user is cumulative, giving us both breadth and depth.
We have conducted research sprints across the spectrum of the design process -- from up front conceptual research through participatory design and prototype testing to usability testing. Because research is conducted in sprints, we get from inquiry to insights in weeks, mitigating the usual fear-inducing factors (length of time, cost of research, impact to design/dev cycle). There’s still impact to the project timeline. But early incorporation limits cost down the road. Case in point: in one recent round of usability testing and design iteration we increased our System Usability Scale score by almost 30 points, from 50 to 80. That’s an enormous difference that will have a huge payoff in user adoption of the solution.
How have we been able to adapt lean methods to qualitative, contextual research? In part, this has been thanks to technology. As part of BeyondCurious’ Innovation@Speed methodology and mindset, we are constantly searching for ways that technology can help us be more efficient. To this end, we are doing everything from using online recruiting tools like ethn.io and repurposing web conferencing tools like Skype and Join.me to developing our own research applications.
But the other reason we’ve been able to shift to an agile approach to research has been thanks to a mental shift. Simply put, when faced with a research question, area of inquiry, or limited time frame, instead of saying no, we find ways to say yes. That mental and attitudinal agility has been just as important as the tools we use to enable our Agile Research methodology. The openness, flexibility, ability to pivot, and rapidity of insights generation that Agile Research enables has helped everyone from clients to internal teams conquer their fear of the unknown, and leverage the power of knowing target users. So there’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.
How does a major automotive brand empower both its customers and its sales associates with the technology to create a consistent experience online and offline? Lexus, a division of Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), embraced that opportunity by working with BeyondCurious to develop mobile applications that supported the launch of the all-new Lexus 2015 NX and RC models. A key to success was Lexus utilizing a BeyondCurious methodology, Innovation@Speed, that disrupts traditional product development approaches.
On November 13, BeyondCurious is being honored with an award from the Asian/Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ACE) for the work that we have done with our partner TMS Toyota Motor Sales. We were also just awarded a Gold MarCom in Mobile for the Lexus RC App. Both honors affirm the value of taking new approaches to bring ideas to market faster and more effectively, as the following case study demonstrates.
2015 Lexus RC app
A Case Study: Lexus NX and RC apps
Lexus wanted to engage and educate sales associates on two new vehicle lines—the NX and RC—before they even hit the showroom, all while using a digital app that had the broadest reach possible. These apps would go beyond education to provide associates with a genuine selling tool. The apps needed to not only target sales associates but also appeal and be useful to consumers who were researching new cars.
Our Approach: Innovation@Speed
Lexus was a perfect candidate for Innovation@Speed, which allows brands to achieve rapid results. Innovation@Speed consists of four pillars that can be applied to our partner’s business problems: integrated thinking, a hacker mindset, lean methods, and living product.
We always start from a place of integrated thinking, striving to think through all of the possible options and discover what works best. This project was no exception, leading us to examine many different approaches at the outset. It was important that the apps provided information to customers as they research potential purchases and also to salespeople so that they can be better informed. The solution: maximizing interactive content and providing features like virtual reality components which allowed visual vehicle competitor comparisons—an experience that would never even be possible in a physical retail environment. The NX and RC apps capture the essence of the Lexus brand while supporting an informed purchase decision.
A Hacker Mindset
After carefully considering the various options, we decided that using a single code base to design a solution that scaled across platforms (iOS, Android) and devices (mobile, tablet, desktop) was the correct approach. In this way we, saved time, money, and reached the broadest possible audience.
We employed a sprint-based project schedule during design and development, delivering something to the client every two weeks. For clients, this timeline provided greater visibility into what was being created. For the project team, it conferred the ability to quickly surface problems, build minimum viable products quickly, and pivot when a need emerged.
Ensuring that the apps were easily updateable and provided informative analytics were important to overall client success. To that end, both the NX and RC apps make updating and disseminating key information about the RC and NX models simple for Lexus. Analytics that measure user engagement will help Lexus understand user behavior and needs, structuring future improvements. Supporting multiple audiences, the NX and RC apps are living products that will evolve with Lexus’ brand-new vehicles.
On September 9, 2014 the apps launched, supporting hundreds of types of devices. In a review of the apps in Luxury Daily, author Joe Withey characterized the apps as “…useful for any consumer that wants to supplement their research journey…” The apps proved popular for both the consumer and the salesperson, receiving high marks on both the Google Play and Apple App store. Indeed, as Ming-Jou Chen, Dealer Development Communications Manager at Lexus College, Torrance, California, said in Luxury Daily, the apps met their goal, engaging and educating a broad audience: “Both dealers and customers benefit from the them as self-learning tools and it’s great for awareness as well.” Our Innovation@Speed methodology helped Lexus deliver a product that met business challenges with agility and speed.
Helping big brands innovate quickly is our specialty. Explore how we have helped other big brands transform themselves on our website.
After founding and running Web 2.0 conferences for a number of years, John Battelle was fed up. The co-founder of Wired had had it up to here with status quo conference rooms and generic hotel ballrooms. So, while mountain biking with friend Brian Monahan, the two came up with an idea that would turn the conference on its head.
Not long after, they founded NewCo. True to their vision, NewCo does not organize conferences. Instead, they facilitate festivals where curious minds, startup junkies, and entrepreneurs can hear from and interact with innovative new companies in the company's own offices. With multiple tracks or "stages" from which to choose in each time slot, participants curate their own experience to learn and make new connections. NewCo offers an up-close and personal experience of each company in its native habitat, including office tours and insights from company founders.
Past participants have included a range of companies. For example, the 2014 NewCo Festival in San Francisco included well-known innovators like IDEO, airbnb, Pinterest, and Yahoo. But less obvious and equally interesting companies, like Hampton Creek--a food company that operates like a technology company--are equally represented.
NewCo Festivals are hosted around the world and they're quickly gaining momentum. But Battelle isn't just interested in reinventing the conference. He's on a mission to use the NewCo festivals to help a new kind of company thrive. Battelle believes that these new kind of corporations, or NewCo's, with their new ways of doing business, will help create thriving, connected ecosystems in host cities.
So what makes a NewCo? How are they any different from old companies?
- Information First NewCo's are information-first companies that are innovating by changing the usual flow of data so that instead of retroactively reacting, they are proactively shaping their companies' offerings. That also means that NewCo's tend to be flat, since information flows better when it's not bottled up in silos.
- On a mission NewCo's don't just have a mission--everyone has those. They're ON a mission that everyone in the company shares and can articulate. They are about something, and that's what motivates them to continue pushing the boundaries of the possible.
- Positive Change Whether it's making a better mattress or helping reclaim a rundown waterway, NewCo's all feel that what they are doing is making a positive change in the world. They're part of a community, they believe in giving to get.
The next NewCo festival--NewCo LA--occurs on Wednesday, November 19th from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. Over 50 host companies, spanning from Venice to downtown Los Angeles are opening their doors. For registration go here.
Changes abound in how Americans are thinking about healthcare. The Affordable Care Act has wrought tremendous changes in the overall healthcare marketplace, as the focus on patients as healthcare consumers—along with the mandate to incorporate digital technology—has led to industry transformation. One sector at the center of the American’s evolving relationship with healthcare is the retail pharmacy.
Located in neighborhoods across America, the retail pharmacy is uniquely positioned to confront America’s health challenges, including spiraling health costs and access. For example, retail pharmacies have been instrumental in popularizing generic drugs. In terms of providing access, they are much better positioned than hospitals to provide preventive care. With Americans only 2.36 miles away from their closest retail pharmacy, their ubiquity makes them uniquely suited to catering to the needs of the community. And, retail pharmacies are moving further in the direction of providing basic medical services--CVS’s Minuteclinics are a model example.
So what is in store for the future and what new ways are pharmacies using innovative tools to help patients take charge of their health? The future of the pharmacy is currently in flux, but there are some clear trends in how technology and changing service models are playing a role. Here are four innovative tools retail pharmacies are using to improve patient health:
Interactive Health Kiosks
Gone are the antiquated-looking blood pressure monitoring stations of old. Today retail pharmacies are installing interactive health kiosks from companies like Higi-- which partnered with Rite Aid in 2014. In the case of Higi, customers can record weight, blood pressure, and pulse at one of the in-store kiosks and review it through an online account. A health index reduces overall metrics into one number that helps users understand their overall wellness. Participation is incentivized through challenges and rewards in the form of discounts to a variety of retailers.
Next Generation Lab Testing
Walgreens has just partnered with Theranos—a biotech company specializing in minimally invasive blood testing—to disrupt the medical laboratory-testing experience. Theranos will leverage a spa-like soothing environment with the accessible footprint of Walgreens and its fast, minimally invasive testing technology to create a next generation testing experience that minimizes stress and maximizes efficiency.
Digital Health Coaching
Retail pharmacies are also taking an active role in their customers’ health by providing coaching programs. Recently, Walgreens has partnered with WebMD in order to provide these coaching programs to patients. This coaching extends across many different sorts of chronic conditions and is mediated through digital tools.
Pharmacists now help customers remember to take their medication in a variety of ways including calling, texting, and email reminders. Mscripts is another tool pharmacists can use to help patients adhere to their medication regimens. The smartphone app offers customers the ability to refill their prescriptions at the touch of a button and also offers helpful prescription refill-reminding push notifications
Retail pharmacies have proven to be unexpected laboratories for innovative technology and services. Their uniquely large footprint and accessibility make them poised to help the US address its many health challenges.
Code Red: A New Approach to Project Planning
At BeyondCurious, we engage a project planning practice called Code Red, designed to uncover the risk, uncertainty, and fears that exist in relation to any project. Code Red helps us align contingency planning to team energy level, gives us optimism when we need it, and vastly increases quality of output while on the way to the finish line.
The Problem with the Typical Project Planning Process
The typical approach to project planning is to start off every project with a code green status, meaning everything is going well. As teams progress through each month of the project and encounter challenges—whether associated with people, circumstances, or budgets—the status changes from green to yellow. When challenges persist or expand, the project goes into crisis and the status changes to red. Unless you’re able to turn the project around at this point, it is essentially a failure.
It takes an enormous amount of effort, energy, and budget to turn that foundering project around. Relationships are damaged, trust is lost, and you may have to delay or forego valuable opportunities.
What’s the Fix?
In the course of our experience—having run complex, global projects for over 15 years—we have found that the kind of challenges that turn a project status fro green to red aren’t uncovered by the typical, rational planning process. Instead, those challenges stem from variables that people have felt intuitively but have not generally identified and articulated during the planning phase.
Code Red is a response to this challenge and involves flipping the practice of how projects are planned and executed. Instead of starting a project with a status of green, then going to red, and finally exerting a tremendous amount of resources in order to get back to green, we start every project off with a red status. We say, “Let’s plan on project success but let’s also think about all the rational and irrational concerns, fears, uncertainties, and doubts we have even before the project begins. Let’s figure out a mitigation plan so that if we hit any of those scenarios, we can immediately trigger the actions necessary to meet those challenges.”
How Code Red Helps
1 – Aligns Team Energy to Project Needs
If you start off with a project status of red, your goal at the start of the project—when everyone has the highest levels of energy, optimism, and enthusiasm—is all applied in how you get that project from a red to a green status. It maps well to the emotional energy of the team. Ultimately, you are saying, “Let’s scramble up front. Let’s solve for this now, and then we can take it easier at the end.” By the end of the project when the energy starts to dwindle, you’re already in a great place.
2 – Gives the Team Optimism at the Right Moment
Projects are like wars. Project challenges are its battles, and optimism is most needed at later junctures when morale is most vulnerable. When you’re six months in and you see another mistake that delays the project, necessitating an all-nighter, it is hard to muster the energy to tackle problems with sufficient vigor and hope. If, on the other hand, one starts from a place of urgency, going from red to orange to yellow to green, optimism regarding project success can only build over time.
3 – Manages Stakeholder and Client Expectations
Code Red is fantastic at managing expectations of stakeholders and clients. Even if you hit unfortunate circumstances for which you may not have planned, your clients are not likely to be surprised because you have already talked about every possible scenario. They’re much more likely to be collaborative. Everyone is in a problem-solving rather than a finger-pointing mode, and the energy of the group is directed in moving forward as opposed to feeling beaten by circumstance.
4 – Improves Overall Quality
This project planning practice also improves quality of output by allowing more response time. For example, in a digital project, the engineering bits come at the very end. You’ve done research, strategy, UX, and design and by the time the engineers get started on their part, you might only have 30 days left before the launch date. If they encounter obstacles or need to make changes, things become dire. If those possible challenges were uncovered at the inception of the project, the engineering team would have had 6 months to figure out a solution.
5 - More Focus and Urgency
When a project is Code Red, there is increased focus and urgency. Harnessing the team’s instinctual reaction to a perceived threat staves off complacency and triggers the muscles necessary to get you from red to green. Code Red drives change whereas the typical project process engages a maintenance mentality. It is the difference between preserving the status quo and moving the needle.
Code Red has helped us derive better quality results, increase focus, manage relationships with clients, and allow us to maintain optimism in the face of challenging situations. Contact us to learn more about how a Code Red mindset can help your organization.