Our colleague Nuno Camacho spent two days with one of our clients, a large German pharmaceutical company, for a customer value proposition workshop. Curious about how it went? Read his experiences below.
Workshop day 1
6:45 a.m. – The alarm goes off.
My alarm goes off. After a quick shower, I head to breakfast at the hotel. I get a cup of coffee. I love my first cup of coffee in the morning, it’s a great way to kickstart the intense day ahead.
7.55 a.m. – Arriving at the offices
I arrive at the offices of the client 20 minutes before the agreed time. I greet the receptionist who prints me my security badge. I can enter and leave the building for the next two days (which is kind of handy…). My contact person arrives, greets me and takes me to the first floor, where all the action is going to take place very soon. Exciting…
45 minutes later the first participants start to arrive. I take the opportunity to greet them and get to know them a bit already. They look curious and energized for the day ahead. For them, it’s a switch in mindset today. They have been working in science for several weeks and know they have to start transitioning to the business side for this customer value proposition workshop.
9.00 a.m. – Start of the workshop
After explaining a bit of my background and our work at MTI², we start to listen to each participant’s pitch. It’s always a lot of fun to do “questions with no answers”. The goal here is to allow participants to collect some ideas on which aspects need clarification. Even if the ideas are not yet polished in a storytelling way, it’s good to hear the enthusiasm and passion the teams have for their ideas.
9.50 a.m – Session on How to Sharpen and Present Business Concepts
Now it’s my turn. I start my session. I present the framework that will guide project work during the day and illustrate with some within-industry and some outside-industry cases. The examples can help the participants later, with their own business cases. Given that I am at a life sciences company, I start with a slide with only a picture of a Viagra pill. I ask “do you recognize this pill?”. The question is almost rhetorical but it helps kickstart the discussion. After exchanging some views and ideas on the discovery of Viagra, we try to extract learnings about customer choice, and the importance of marketing and the fit between customer needs and solutions offered. We also discuss other cases ranging from Uber, to Netafim (an Israeli company that is the global leader in drip irrigation), along with several others.
11.00 a.m. – Break time
Together with a wonderful team of managers from the client, we start visiting the different teams for coaching. We do this to support but also to challenge their ideas. The first team is a diverse team and when I arrive, they seem to be in an interesting discussion about on which customers they have to focus. I discuss value creation with them. I let them focus on identifying a clear customer with clear customer needs. This is important. More focusing on the benefits for the customer. Less focusing on the features of their solutions. That’s the challenge. It takes some effort to convince some of the participants to “remove the scientist hat” and “put on the marketer or even salesman hat”… However, we gradually start focusing on the benefits for the customer rather than scientific features. To complicate matters, many of these life sciences ideas have many customers and stakeholders to address… From hospital patients to academia to diagnostic companies, to payers such as governments and insurers… It is a complex yet rewarding set of discussions.
12.30 p.m. Should I go for lunch?
In the meantime, an hour and a half has passed. Amazing how time flies (when you are having fun 😊). Lunch time arrived and I still have to visit two teams… I decide to visit each team before having lunch. One of our client contacts stays with me, which is great. I see different teams with a different level of maturity depending on how long they have been working on the idea and also perhaps on the type of profiles of the teams. It’s interesting for me as well to see the differences.
1.45 p.m. Lunch time
We’re a bit late for lunch but I find at salad bar in the canteen. I have Buddha Bowl, it’s delicious.
After lunch it’s time for team feedback and for the teams to exchange their ideas and progress so they can give feedback to each other. Me and managers from the client’s company observe and we give our own feedback as well. I try to keep the energy level as I notice some of the teams are losing energy. It’s an intense day. The most common challenges the teams face are related to focus (“We have thought about so many customers, why focus only on one?”) and to speak in layman’s language (“Can we use a simpler word for that?”). But we start to see progress, especially on the walls of the breakout rooms which are now full of signals of brainstorming discussions, analyses and decisions being made at lighting speed. We have these great sheets of paper that can easily be hung on the walls, the teams can then draw graphs, tables, sketches or whatever helps with brainstorming. This helps to crystalize all the information and knowledge that is being generated. You can see the ideas maturing and developing in a very fast pace. Some teams are doing really well, one of the teams seems to be lagging quite a bit behind so I decide to stay in their room for some extra coaching and support.
4.45 p.m. Concept pitches
Time for the first stress test: concept pitches. Three teams of the four decided to present without slides. I had pushed them to not start too early with making slides, as brainstorming on paper avoids “premature closing” and is freer and more creative. The teams had to learn and digest a lot. But what’s important is that we saw a lot of progress being done.
The teams exchange a lot of helpful feedback with each other. The energy is still good. We finish the day on a high. Tomorrow we meet again, at 9 a.m. But before I go back to my hotel, I stay to chat with some of the participants. We have an interesting discussion about how to move from an idea to execution.
Around 8 p.m. I am back at the hotel for dinner. Late for German standards, normal for my Portuguese standards. I go back to my room and prepare for tomorrow.
Workshop Day 2
6:45 a.m. – The alarm goes off
The start of day two. I had set the alarm for the same time, but I stayed a bit too late preparing and catching up with other work. So today I hit the snooze button twice. Since I also had to pack for checkout, I head to breakfast later than yesterday.
8:25 a.m. - Arrive at the client’s office
I arrive at the offices of the client shortly before 8.30 a.m. The security card – which should last for two days – was incorrectly setup. So I need to go back to the reception to renew its validity. The participants are not here yet, so I take some time to carefully prepare the laptop and grab a nice cup of coffee.
9:00 a.m. – Reflection on yesterday and preparing for today
We start the day with a quick recap of last day’s work. The teams share their struggles, their learnings, their change in mindset and their confidence because today they already “know the drill” and will be able to work out two ideas rather than one. The energy is up again. I feel a small sense of pride for being able to contribute, even in my little way, to what these teams are doing… real science which will create value for patients, doctors… and possibly save lives around the globe. It is a privilege.
9:45 a.m. – First round of coaching for teams
I start coaching the team which I felt was having a harder time yesterday transitioning from the “science world” to the “storytelling” needed for a business case presentation to be persuasive. They tell me “they get it now”. The team leader says “It took me 5-6 hours to get what all the talk about ‘customer shoes’ means, but I now get it… and I like it…”. I notice how smart the participants of this workshop are. Many are very well respected scientists in their respective areas of expertise, science professors, researchers with strong credentials and expertise, senior managers. What a mix. I feel I am learning just as much as them, which is great.
12.30 p.m. - Let’s have lunch
Today we had lunch on time. Over lunch one of our client contacts asks me about other initiatives we are doing at MTI². I tell him about our open programs. He knew already about our next one on customer centric ideation in Amsterdam in January 2020. By the way, I repeat my Buddha bowl. I really love this.
1.00 p.m. - Kickstart Idea #2
I go around the teams and tell them it’s now time to switch to idea two, before it is too late… To my surprise, only one of the teams had not yet switched. They indeed got the hang of it.
2.15 p.m. - Energy Boost Needed
I enter the room of one of the teams and feel we need a renewed dose of energy. One of the team members is lying on the floor with a big pillow under his neck. As soon as I enter he tells me “look, I am contributing, don’t take this position wrong… it is just so comfortable… I could totally sleep here…”. I am sure he is contributing. The participant is a high-energy and very nice scientist from the US. I feel a spark in his eyes whenever he discusses his or even others’ ideas. He also seems really smart. I guess many smart folks also have some eccentric behaviours once in a while so I actually find his decision to lay on the ground really cool… The person in the team who was going to present, however, needed some help organizing the ideas on the walls. They had a lot of information, a lot of analyses, but were struggling about organizing all that information in a structured elevator pitch. How to discuss all of this in just 5 minutes? What to leave out? How to focus the discussion…? I try to help them by reorganizing sheets of paper on the wall with the help of another member of the team, another very smart scientist who seems to know everything about proteins. After 45 minutes of discussion, writing, drawing, simplifying and reordering papers, we seem to be getting to a nice elevator pitch. Let’s do a mini dry run, I propose. They pretest the story with another colleague. It seems it starts to stick. Of course additional clarification is needed here and there. More data will be required, and my colleague Celina will come here next week to help them precisely with that. But the stories are shaping up.
3.00 p.m. - Teams are nearly ready
It’s now 3 p.m. Teams worked really efficiently and progressed very well. In fact, almost all teams say they are nearly ready, so we seem to be 30-45 minutes ahead of schedule. We decide to take this opportunity to start the pitches a bit earlier leaving more time for discussion, Q&A and suggestions for each other, which all teams had found very valuable in the day before.
The pitches seem more mature than the ones in the day before, even though these are for different ideas. This means the teams did start to grasp the methodology and apply it more efficiently. Today they worked on twice as many ideas and did so with excellent quality.
The teams again engage in insightful discussions and debates. For every single team I am strict on the pitch timing (as prewarned), but remain flexible on the Q&A time.
We end around 5.30 p.m., as planned. So the discussions were long but very insightful. As we all prepare to leave for the weekend, I feel I developed a bond with the teams. Even though it was just two days, I loved getting to know them and their ideas… I also believe participants truly enjoyed the workshop, the framework, the transition to business mindset and the learnings. Now, on to the research day in preparation of the residential program.
I head to the airport with the feeling of mission accomplished. I will arrive late at home, my 2-year old son and wife will be sleeping, but I feel it was all worth it. It is not everyone – especially not non-scientists like me – that have the chance to contribute to areas as impactful as cancer diagnostics or ideas to improve the quality of life of chronic patients, for instance. We are privileged at MTI² to work with clients that are very interesting, super intelligent and have a tremendous impact in the world around us. I am privileged for belonging to this team.