Saturday, January 18, 2014

Breakthrough Health Promotion - Think Inside the Box

Once or twice a year we'll get a request to help brainstorm a new health promotion service or product. It's flattering to be thought of as a creative wellness provider and we relish the opportunity. But on most occasions, the request is difficult (if not impossible) to satisfy because the individual is looking for something "completely new and different." The problem is there really isn't such a thing -- in wellness or any other industry.

If you look at some of the hottest businesses today, none started with something completely new or different; they all were take-offs of existing technology/services or combinations of existing products/services. Consider:

    Apple. The ubiquitous iPod wasn't the first MP3 player on the market, but it was a radically improved version that, when combined with iTunes (also not the first online music store), caused the digital music market to explode.
    Google. A relatively late entry into web search, the founders didn't even set out to develop a search engine, but discovered what they'd built for a graduate school project was a better search tool than what existed to that point. And Google really didn't take off until they applied an existing advertising model (pay per click) to their search algorithms to produce highly targeted advertising.
    NetFlix. NetFlix took 2 relatively old concepts -- movie rental and mail order -- then combined them with exceptional customer service and a superior website to dominate their niche market.
    Starbucks. Howard Schultz didn't invent coffee or community, but Starbucks transformed the delivery of caffeine to the bloodstream by combining these to dramatically boost coffee consumption worldwide.

The lesson in each example is that great business concepts -- and similarly great wellness ideas -- aren't necessarily new or different. In fact, they are far more likely to be combinations of or enhancements to existing, even ordinary ideas.

Producing Breakthroughs

You don't need to come up with something that's never been tried before. Take what works and combine them in new ways -- enhancing products or services and looking for new applications of current resources.

For the next great wellness innovation, forget about creating something new and different. Instead, think inside the box of your existing wellness tools, using these questions to stimulate breakthrough thinking:

    Which participants use your services in the most unusual (and unexpected) way? What can you learn from them that could be transferred to the larger population? How can you take that unusual use and mass produce it?
    Who are your wellness "groupies" -- those who use a greater share of your services than most -- and why? What needs are you meeting for them that could be transferred to other population subsets?
    What product or service produced unexpected success in the last year? What was it that brought in bigger numbers or new participants? Was it the topic, marketing, delivery? How can you replicate that in other areas?
    What is it about your wellness program that presents the greatest obstacle to participation? What causes people to just say "oh, never mind"? Is it a lengthy assessment, inconvenient time or location, difficulty in finding a resource or a real person? Sometimes the easiest breakthrough is identifying the biggest hassle and removing it.
    Who is the most underserved segment of your population? Why? What can you do to make it easier, more convenient, valuable, more interesting, or appealing to them?
    If you had an unlimited budget, what are the top 3 things you would do? (Okay, no one has an unlimited budget, so pick the priority you can do and get going. Once you show success with that version, then make a pitch for the money to upgrade next year.)

Innovation is more about awareness than it is about wild, out-of-the box thinking. Use these ideas to stimulate thinking inside the box for wellness program breakthroughs in 2012.

Dean Witherspoon, CEO and founder of employee wellness firm, Health Enhancement Systems, has 25 years in health promotion. He has served on the board of the Association for Worksite Health Promotion and held several regional as well as state offices. Dean is a nationally known speaker and author, having presented at more than 70 conferences and written hundreds of employee wellness articles for national publications.

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