The Inversion and The Underground
Hank Adams, global director for health at HDR in conversation at the Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Summit with Garrett Miller, vice president of strategic marketing and creative director for healthcare, education and government with Herman Miller; Peter Ruppe, senior vice president of footwear at Under Armour; and Matthew Von Ertfelda, senior vice president of food and beverage for the global operations of Marriott Corporation.
Adams: What is the key to maintaining competitive advantage in an industry that requires release of new products in a rapid cadence, and how do you think we can change our approach to thinking about innovation in competition in the healthcare industry?
Outthink the Competition When You Can’t Outspend Them
Ruppe: Make everything that you do precious and make it matter. This is the minimalist thought. Don’t just, as we would say around our house, mail it in. Just because you can take an action and you can create something doesn’t mean you should.
We want to think about it like this: If we are going to bring something to the market, we want to design everything around that before we ever get to the product itself or to the service itself. We want to think about the journey.
Who are we thinking of? Who are we delivering for? Where are they at in the journey? What part of it are we intending to offer and enable, and how are we bringing that in?
We want to then think about the story. Everyone connects emotionally. What is the story and why would it matter? How are they going to know about it, and what is the reach? What is going to be the method to think about how we draw somebody into that story? Then we can start talking about what we are actually making.
This is, in most cases, the inversion. We think about the service first and then we start to break down the components around that service. Go the other way around. See the end to end first and then map yourself into it.
We thrive in the competition in our industry, but we also know that everybody gets caught in what they are holding onto and what they stand for. If you can understand what the competition stands for, then you have the best chance possible of defeating them. We want to be able to attack them because we know what the things they’re trying to do to win and we want to try to counter those.
In a very competitive marketplace, that is what you have to be thinking. We certainly aren’t going to outspend somebody like Nike, who is six or more times our size, but if we can out think them and become the more intimate player, the generational player for Gen-Z—that is where we are going to win and we are going to have to think like Gen-Z to make that happen.
Innovating In Narnia (The Underground)
Von Ertfelda: We’re always homing in on the aggravation or an unmet consumer need and letting that drive our process. We’re following that process rigorously in terms of teasing out the highest value, creating insight platforms and then testing against those. One of the biggest accomplishments of our company from an innovation perspective is three letters — POC. That stands for proof of concept, and that was a way to realize what you described earlier which is this vehicle for experimentation and to begin homing in on areas of innovation opportunity.
Before, we had only the pilot phase — come up with an idea, a concept, and then pilot across 50 to 100 hotels. The proof of concept phase, which was a pre-pilot phase that we introduced, allowed us to take ideas that were intentionally unfinished, where we didn’t necessarily know what the solution was, but would take an idea and break it to understand its vulnerabilities. That encouraged much more experimentation and allowed us to stretch much further than we had in the past. It was really what allowed us to unlock a culture of innovation and creativity in many ways across our organization.
I have been with the company for about 17 years and we’ve done a lot of work on how to create processes and deliver greater outcomes. But it wasn’t until we delivered a space called The Underground, a 9,000-square-foot subterranean space in the basement of Marriott International Headquarters, where we really started to accelerate our innovation efforts.
This was a headline and a testament to a very tangible manifestation of our commitment to innovation. It is a space, call it a Narnia, for anyone creative or innovative, where you can build ideas, early concepts, low-fidelity prototypes made of adult-sized Legos, Styrofoam, clay, and then graduate them in fidelity right up to finished guest rooms, public spaces and bars.
This allowed us to enrich and accelerate our innovation process and prove to the rest of the organization that we were really serious about innovation and we were going to up our game.
We’re looking at creating similar innovation labs at our continent hubs across the world with the goal being to take this culture of innovation and memorialize it across our organization and make it part of the deeper fabric of our culture.
Ruppe: In our world we have biomechanics labs, high performance gyms, are are just building two new ones out in Portland, Oregon, where we are headquartering our footwear operations. In the high performance lab, we can instrument every movement somebody is making and we can see how much explosiveness is there, load forces, can see it from motion capture with high speed film, break it down and triangulate it a bunch of different ways and look for those “ah-ha” moments in the functional space to understand what we can do to make sure a theory holds true.
We wanted to stay on that cutting edge. It is really important that we compete very sharply in terms of bringing that data rich area into what we do. It’s not the only thing we do; we still have to take it back to the story and still have to make it relevant to a young person. But if you can make sure that the part of what you’re doing holds up strong, everything else starts to get a lot easier.