Philips director calls on innovators to embrace digital ethnographic behavioral change

Ahead of her presentation at the Product Innovation Summit in Boston, Innovation Enterprise sat down with Veronica Adamson, director of strategy, M&A and partnerships at Philips


Philips is a Dutch multinational technology company founded in 1891, with a current focus on the healthcare sector. The technology colossus is ranked 383 in the Forbes 500 list, as well ranking 93 in Forbes’ list of the world’s most valuable brands, due to its technological solutions and consistent product innovation spearheading disruption in every industry it touches.

The healthcare sector is one of the most exciting and fruitful, but also competitive markets going right now, with technology such as robotics, AI and the Internet of Things driving constant change and continued growth. In 2020, Deloitte predicts that global healthcare spending will reach $8.7 trillion, with factors such as aging populations and increasing diabetes diagnosis driving demand for healthcare technology solutions.

In such a fast-paced, ever-changing and cutthroat industry, perpetual innovation is the only way to keep ahead. We spoke with Adamson about how to approach innovation within this environment.

Innovation Enterprise: What are the key differences and similarities between startups and corporate giants when it comes to digital product development?

Veronica Adamson: Ecosystem participation is a critical difference between how most corporate giants versus startups develop digital products.

By the very nature of their funding, startups consistently engage with leading investors in their field, as well as competitors and academics. Their product ideas are consistently challenged; they must innovate or die.

Most corporate giants are more insular. Corporate digital product developers often lack the optimal level of challenge and intellectual stimulation and end up with outdated or irrelevant products. New organizational structures and development processes can help corporates compete.

IE: Why does ambition matter in product design?

VA: Digital product development is messy and requires multifunctional teams working semi-independently – a concise, quantified, time-stamped North Star is the only way to ensure that the products' ambition is realistic and that everyone is working toward the same goal. This is especially true if, as is usually the case, some teams are working backward from the end goal (product five years out) and others are working toward it stepwise.

IE: How have approaches to reaching scale changed over the past year?

VA: In the past, entrepreneurs and investors talked about scale as a thing (i.e., "how long until we reach 'scale' on our platform"). Two years ago, platform owners started to take a page out of Facebook's book and set monthly active users (MAU) / daily active users (DAU) targets. This year, platform owners have started to recognize that focusing on a metric is not good enough; it is a means to end, rather than an end in and of itself.

The real question is what need does your platform meet for the ecosystem both for you, your partners and end customers or patients? What interaction is a good metric for tracking progress toward meeting this need?

IE: What key trends do you foresee in product development over the coming year?

VA: Digital ethnographic behavioral change: Understanding what patients or customers do and why they do it even better than they do. My previous startup, Customer Echos, developed a cutting-edge approach to melding observed and reported publicly available data to do this. This kind of deep data-driven understanding will become key to competitive advantage in the coming years.

Another key trend will be refocused international expansion strategy: Developing a product in one market and rolling it out in others with one or two adjustments is no longer effective. The product developers that focus on a central need but allow for high levels of local market customization, particularly in markets like China, will end up ahead.

IE: Why will you be speaking at the Product Innovation Summit, and what do you hope to get out of the event?

VA: Participation in events like the Product Innovation Summit are key to staying on the cutting edge of product development as they provide a forum to exchange ideas, test assumptions and spark collaboration with similar professionals.

To find out more about trends in product innovation and digital development, see Veronica Adamson speak at Innovation Enterprise's Product Innovation Summit in Boston on September 27–28, 2018. Book your place HERE.

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