Innovation Blog

Solve Human Problems:

What I want to tell you about is a phrase I actually picked up last week from a mentor.  I’ve lived it and felt it my whole life, but didn’t have the right combination of English vernacular quite down yet.  Now I do: benefit driven design.  You can even take it a step further, user-centric-benefit-design.  But that’s kind of ugly sounding.  When you design around benefits, you will accomplish something truly special and meaningful.
If you were at the MassChallenge Boot Camp, you would have learned to begin with the why.  I believe the reason why why means so much to us is because it hits you in the feels, in the gut, in the benefit zone.  It hits you in a place that resonates throughout like shivering on Comm Ave in January waiting for the T, but the shivers you get are of excitement.  When you say, “I want to help you solve a problem.” When that is why you exist – when that is the essence of your being, that is when you will be a benefit designer.
Where are you going to inject benefit?  How are you going to save the world that you live in?
I am not going to name examples because I may offend someone, so I will try and make something up.  Like a South Park disclaimer, “all characters and events in this [blog]… are entirely fictional.”
Imagine you have an incredible technology that cures cancer 95% of the time.  “Wow.  That’s amazing.  Congratulations!  What’s the downside?”  “Well, it’s hard to use, requires 250 hours of training, super expensive, and requires you to reconfigure your entire ward.”  The user is probably going to buy it anyways (95% cancer cure… how could I not?).  And you may be asking, “Nick, isn’t cancer cure a benefit?”  Yes, but you (Mr. or Ms. CancerTechnology) haven’t looked at your benefit universe yet.
I urge you to take the deep dive. I urge you to immerse yourself not only in the science, but the human element.  The human element will differentiate you.  Give your company life.  “We believe that cancer doesn’t have to be painful.”  Make your world about that.  How do you create benefits that separate your company in every category?  Don’t just do one thing; have a core value of why and have it be the backbone of everything you do.
My cancer example is a bad one in that we as a society badly need a cure.  But let’s say in year 5 after your 95% cancer cure comes out, there will be competitors and they will focus on the benefits.  Their technology will be easier to use, it will take no time to learn, it will be cheaper, and it will integrate with existing workflows.
You will be dead in the water.  
Verbal exists today because we didn’t just complete our senior design project at BU; we ate, drank, slept (or didn’t sleep), and lived our senior design project.  
Verbal exists because we give a damn.  This is a lifestyle.  If you don’t give a damn, then stop doing what you’re doing.  Right now.  Stop.  It’s not worth it.
We didn’t have to go to MGH to make an iPad icon board, but we did.  In two days of shadowing, we discovered more benefits than you can imagine and at first, more than we could comprehend.  The more time we spent with the end users exploring benefits, the more we understood what we needed to accomplish.  We weren’t just improving communication; we were improving the overall patient-caregiver experience.  Instead of saying how we could help them, we asked.
The key is (and thanks for reading this long by the way), you don’t know what your customer wants.  They do.  AND they don’t even know what they want either (but that’s a story for another blog).  You have to sift through the noise and find benefits to create benefits.  Make something your customers are really going to care about.  And don’t believe you have the answers until you find the questions.  What benefits are they looking for and what benefits can you find through observation that will blow their flippin’ minds?
John F. Kennedy (almost) said it best, “ask not what your [customer] can do for you–ask what you can do for your [customer.]”

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