Philadelphia, PA— Before this year’s 16th annual eyeforpharma convention even officially began, Amazon was there, empowering pharma leaders by teaching them new ways from their approach to innovation. We shared our Live from EFP ’18 coverage, but today let’s take a step back and explore what the New Kid on the Block brought to the table.

No, the title above isn’t a typo—at Amazon, it’s 3-2-1… The core of their approach to innovating is dubbed “Working Backwards”, and customer obsession is its core. According to their Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos,

“Done correctly, the Working Backwards process is a huge amount of work. But, it saves you even more work later. The Working Backwards Process is not designed to be easy, it’s designed to save huge amounts of work on the backend, and to make sure we’re actually building the right thing.”

Fundamentally, the working backwards process unfolds by exploring customers across 5 key dimensions:

  1. Identity: Who is this customer?
  2. Opportunity/Challenge: What is the customer’s fundamental problem or need?
  3. Benefit: Why would this provide real value to this customer?
  4. Insight: Where can we find more detail or context on customer’s need or want?
  5. Experience: How can we build a better customer experience?

The pre-EFP session spanned 4 hours, and the Amazon team led more than two-dozen pharma executives through a mini-workshop that leveraged simple and engaging exercises to reframe and reenergize thinking. By utilizing proven design-thinking methods and unique exercises, participants engaged both left and right brain thinking to uncover new tactics to try back at home base.

Once this process is completed, the Amazonian way calls for a Press Release to be drafted by the project lead (their preferred vehicle for internal idea-sharing) alongside an FAQ document to pre-empt misunderstandings. These two artifacts evolve alongside the idea, flexing with each subsequent round of scrutiny, and ideation and according to Amazon, they have proven an effective approach, leading to lightning-fast prototyping and releases. Prove it? Everything from Dash Buttons to Amazon Go started as a simple, customer-centered idea and blossomed through this same process.

Why This Matters—

Amazon tops countless lists for the world’s most successful, envied and innovative companies. As the company delves deeper into healthcare, they’re bringing their customer-obsession along for the ride, and it’s set to shift healthcare customer expectations across the board. Patient-centricity has been a hot topic for more than a decade in pharma, but savvy healthcare marketers should note that Amazon’s entry likely marks a sea change in our space. Scott Galloway, author and NYU professor has referred to Amazon’s influence in a new space as Jedi mind tricks, and that insight should drive a sense of urgency on our end to move customer-centricity from a buzzword to table-stakes strategy.


Fast Company


About the Author:

Drew Beck has spent his entire career in healthcare — from direct patient care as an EMT in college to countless roles in pharma sales and global marketing for leading life science companies including Eli Lilly & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline. He is currently a leader on the Syneos Health Insights & Innovation team, a group charged with leveraging deep expertise in virtual collaboration, behavioral science, trends-based-innovation, custom research and global marketing insights.