Innovation By Design - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Innovation By Design

Pharmaceutical Executive


Listen, Learn, and Replicate

A number of companies outside of healthcare have applied design thinking to their business with staggering results. Apple has redefined how people experience media. P&G has revolutionized home cleaning. And in healthcare, a number of companies—particularly in the device and delivery arenas—have used design thinking to redefine their business. J&J has used designers in its endosurgery business, coupling an understanding of user needs with its capabilities in science and bioengineering.

And there are numerous opportunities to apply design thinking to transform pharma's commercial model.

  • As access becomes more difficult, design thinking can aid in the creation of new ways of communicating and engaging professionals. This could include working with physicians and physician groups to deliver integrated, customizable solutions that cut across therapeutic areas, and engaging in new business partnerships that help physicians run more successful practices.
  • As payers strive to contain spiraling costs, they pare back drug coverage and exert downward pressure on pricing. Design thinking can help explore dramatically different models of cooperation and risk management with payers. These could be driven by reimbursements for managing specific conditions through more integrated therapies and new protocols for healthcare delivery.
  • As consumers take on more responsibility for their healthcare, pharmaceutical companies must adjust how they interact with their audience. Design thinking can help re-imagine the frontiers of service, such as providing intuitive, clear information and convenient solutions that help people participate in their own care.

Design thinking can provide a capability for creating compelling solutions for the new challenges facing the healthcare industry. Designers bring a sense of empathy along with an open-minded attitude that is unencumbered by traditional industry approaches and solutions. Add to this their passion and optimism—an innate energy for seeking out what's possible, in addition to what's desirable and feasible—and we see a powerful set of skills the pharmaceutical industry would do well to embrace.

Of course, design capabilities are complements to, not substitutes for, the existing innovation capabilities of the industry. This is a leadership opportunity. Those leaders who make the strategic commitment to think and act differently—creating the capabilities, permissions, and independence necessary to re-frame the challenges ahead—will find themselves moving and learning faster than their competitors. In turn, those who move quickly to embrace design thinking will not only inject more imagination into solving the challenges they confront, but also will be at the forefront of the next several decades of success.

Matt Locsin is a designer and manager at Doblin, a member of Monitor Group. He can be reached at

Bansi Nagji is senior partner of Monitor Group. He can be reached at


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