In my industry (and I assume not only there), we speak a lot about ‘co-creation‘. A lot! Because we are deeply convinced that ideating and developing things together gives better outcomes. And I expressly share this belief.
Unfortunately, very often we limit the approach to ourselves. So, colleagues are co-creating with colleagues. Which is fabulous and a big step forward for many. But – taking the CX lens – we are still not very good at co-creating together with customers and external stakeholders.
Over the past years, I have watched a development going on …
The ‘old old’ way of working
This is the principle how the industry worked for ages (e.g. with content material, services or new digital assets). We knew what we wanted to deliver. We developed based on what we wanted to deliver. We delivered what we wanted to deliver.
The customer wasn’t really included, and customer-centricity didn’t exist. This approach primarily followed and was driven by the company’s interest and purpose. Yes, this certainly did include some customer research … but it was easy following an (unconscious) bias by doing cherry-picking on what smoothly fit to and confirmed our (already existing) understanding.
The old way of working
The old way of working for many is actually the current of working. And don’t get it wrong, it is a big step forward compared to the ‘old old’ way.
It is an evolution as it starts to consider the customer’s opinion. The typically spotted approach is the following. With the development of what we decided to do, we more or less include customers for a co-creation. In the best case, this might be doing project with partnering customers. In the simplest, it is asking customers if they would like to have it as a website or an app … in red, green or blue. But still we decide what we want to do, mainly based on the company’s purpose and needs.
The new way of working
With a lot of pleasant anticipation, the new way of working is truly a revolution. Disrupting old-school approaches and liberating an exciting level of innovation around therapy-supporting services and digital assets which the industry so far failed to provide.
In a nutshell, the customer is included at all stages and both, company and customers, jointly ideate, decide and develop based on shared purposes and needs. I personally prefer calling this co-design, to avoid an accidental mix-up with what we so far called ‘co-creation’, potentially tempting people to accidentally assume they are doing right already where they simply do not.
But for many colleagues in pharma this will be a huge step. Moving considerably out of comfort zones. Being brave and bold with giving away some control (to the customer) and being willing and open that the final output might be different from what they would have preferred to do. Speaking about the “customer sitting at the table” not being a metaphor. Actually and physically sitting together at one table in the same room, co-designing and truly co-creating together. Yes, it may still be a way to go for getting this fully business implemented.
But – based on examples I had the pleasure to experience myself – I promise you that it is worth the effort! I have always seen outputs and outcomes of higher quality, closer meeting HCPs or patients needs, substantially increasing reputation and trust with stakeholders, and actually showing real world business impact. I observe more and more colleagues experimenting with the approach. And it is such a promising and exciting prospect of having the new way of working systematically implemented.
I am personally deeply convinced that this way of working will be the future of pharma business, as it is applied more and more other industries already. Pharmaceutical companies, which are capable to systematically implement the approach across their business, will not only experience more and better business based on trusted customer relationships. It will also place them into a head-start position for succeeding in already changing healthcare markets and systems. The future will belong to those enterprises who meet the closest what their customers need and expect. And this possibly works for the strong relationship- and trust-based pharma business even better than for other industries.