Innovation in the Health Care Market: Recognize Who Your Customers are in a Market Ecosystem

Imagine you are a manufacturer of medical devicessay, scalpels for example. Who is your customer? 

Is it the surgeon who uses the scalpel for performing a surgery? Or is it the nurse who secures a smooth operation? Maybe it is the medical device technologist who reprocesses the equipment to make it aseptic and ready for the next operation? Or even the hospital’s sourcing team that wants to purchase the best products while optimizing commercial outcomes? 

All these health care professionals have one or many touchpoints with the scalpel, and each of them has quite different requirements for it. This is a typical example for a complex market, a market that consists of an ecosystem of customers with different roles and tasks, that have different needs around one and the same physical product.  

From the manufacturer’s perspective, it may seem hard to decide which customer group’s requirements are most relevant for product development, for marketing & sales, for the digitization strategy and last but not least for new business model development.  

Jobs-to-be-Done thinking offers a workable framework for maintaining an overview and creating the right mix of value propositions. 

Healthcare is a complex market 

The health care sector has many stakeholders, each with an agenda, while the competing interests of the different stakeholders aren’t always clear or compatibleas this HBR Article outlines. As a consequence, medical industry products often need to appeal not just to the functional user of an healthcare organization, but to a complex landscape of stakeholders all of whom have a say in whether an innovation is adopted or not. Arlen Myers, president of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, indicates that many (digital) health startups fail because they don’t involve end users early and often enough, they don’t address the needs of multiple stakeholders, or because they create products that interfere with workflows instead of making them easier. 

In the Digital Disruption Programme of the University of Cambridge Business Schoolthe stakeholder term is clarified by describing it as an ecosystemThe course defines an ecosystem very broadly as “dynamic and co-evolving communities of organizations, customers, competitors, suppliers, producers, financiers, trade associations, standard bodies, labor unions, governmental and quasi-governmental institutions, and other who create and capture new value through both collaboration and competition.” A company operating in such a complex market should not be viewed as part of a single industry, but as part of business ecosystem that crosses a variety of industries.  

How to address the right customers in a complex market ecosystem? 

In Jobs-to-be-Done language, the market ecosystem members are different “job executors” having different “jobs-to-be-done”. Their individual jobs-to-be-done are interconnected: they are like pieces of a puzzle that together form a bigger picture.  

The JTBD Needs Framework helps to define and align the different job executors and jobs-to-be-done in a systematic way. It differentiates between three types of customers: the core job executor, the consumption chain executor and the buyer (see graphic at the end of the blog article).  

  • The core job executor has a core jobtobedone, e.g., remove an anatomical structure in a patient. From the viewpoint of the scalpel manufacturer, the core job executor would be the surgeon. A clear understanding of the surgeon’s core job and the most important unmet needs form the basis for an informed discussion on how to best create a functional solution that provides missing capabilities. 
  • The consumption chain executorfor instance, the medical device technologist, supports tasks around the consumption of the solution. In our example it would be to provide sterile surgical tools for surgery. As there are many such consumption chain jobs (e.g., specifying the right tools for surgery, maintaining the tools, upgrading the tools, storing the tools for later use, etc.) it is a good idea to shape an innovation ecosystem that provides missing capabilities, e.g., by partnering with other companies that are experts in sterilization technologies, logistics or maintenance services. 
  • The buyersuch as the hospital sourcing team, wants to purchase the right products while optimizing commercial outcomes. Knowing what these outcomes are and which of them rank high on a specific hospital’s agenda gives a surgical tool company an ideal understanding on how to further develop their pricing and commercialization approaches, e.g., by offering a pay-per-use model instead of traditional purchasing offers 

Putting all types of job executors together, a structured view emerges that can deliver a comprehensive base and “North Star” for the creation of solution offerings that deliver value to all members of a market ecosystem. If you want to learn more about innovating  and growth in market ecosystems, highlight the 16th and 17th of June in your calendar: at the “JTBD VIRTUAL MASTER CLASS BASIC” you will get more insights on the topic “ODI & Health Care – The Innovation Ecosystem”. For more inspiration on innovation in medical industry, read the case study from Advanced Surgical Tools or our Blog article Escaping the commodity trap: Medical Industry. 

JTBD Master Class , 16. Jun - 17. Jun, 2021


Basic training on putting Jobs-to-be-Done theory into practice with Outcome-Driven Innovation® to formulate a winning growth strategy.   Edizon and Strategyn have worked …

The Innovators Talk , 19. Aug, 2021


On August 19, we will focus on the following topic together with Justin Nacar, Customer Project Manager at Nokia and Nina Unger, Digital …


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