Three Strategies to Unlock Your Healthcare Marketing Team’s Creativity

Image of a street sign reading "Creativity"
It’s harder than ever to stand out in a crowded healthcare market. You and your team are always looking for new, creative ways to tell your story. But how do you become more creative?

According to Tom Kelly, partner of lauded design consultancy IDEO, it all comes down to having creative confidence. And Kelly should know. In addition to leading a firm that “…has, in short, become the go-to firm for both American and foreign companies looking to cure their innovation anemia,” Kelly and his brother David, founder of IDEO and the d.school at Stanford, wrote the book on Creative Confidence.

I had the opportunity to hear Kelly’s keynote at the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Management’s I3 Forum and learned a lot about how all of us – even those of us who don’t consider ourselves creative – can get inspired.

Understand that everyone is creative.

According to Kelley, creativity isn’t just the domain of a chosen few. It’s a natural human ability that we’re all born with which, tragically, we’re often taught to bottle up inside ourselves. When faced with a problem there are always people in the room that have solutions in their mind but for whatever reason – mostly the fear of being seen in a negative light from colleagues – they choose not to open their mouths.

Often unleashing personal creativity is about finding the courage to act. To do that, you must recognize that you are a creative person. You may not be creative in an ad agency “creative” sort of way, but Kelly encourages every one of us to expand our definition of being creative to allow ourselves the freedom and courage to share our ideas.

Three strategies for creative success.

Kelly also shared three strategies to help everyone look at situations and uncover more creative solutions:

  1. Balance technology with humanity: We all work with technology. Often the problems people face when using technology isn’t due to the technology itself, but is in the way they interface with it, use it and experience it. Problems stem from the people not the technology, and to understand people more deeply, you need to get out of the office and see how they use it.

    Kelly shared a great example of how to balance technology with humanity. Doug Dietz has spent much of his career developing CT machines for GE Healthcare. Doug worked on CT machines for years before they passed FDA approval, so he regularly left the office to meet with the operators who use his machines and see how they perform. During one visit, he found out his machines scare the heck out of pediatric patients. It turns out the facility needed to anesthetize 80% of peds patients for CT scans. Understanding that he couldn’t change the technology without going through new FDA approvals, Deitz worked to change the experience instead. He elicited help from the staff at a children’s museum and by using imagery and writing a script, they made a game for kids. The result is the Adventure series CT scanners. Now less than 10% of children require anesthesia — a success for GE, hospitals and patients.

  2. See the world with new eyes: It’s not enough to merely be present as someone experiences your product or service. You must also be open to seeing how your product or service falls short in order to make it more valuable for your consumers. Often, people will observe their product in action, but only watch for certain scenarios or observe it in tightly controlled exhibitions that reinforce their preconceptions and give them an opportunity to pat themselves on the back.

    Find a way to see the same things with new eyes.

    Kelly shared an example of an interview with a senior citizen in Germany. The team asked her if her pill bottles gave her any trouble. She replied that they didn’t, but the team found that difficult to believe given her obvious arthritis. So they asked her to show them how she opened it. Imagine their surprise when she took the bottle in the kitchen and used her meat slicer to cut the lid off!

    For healthcare marketers this might mean experiencing your hospital’s service first hand. Sit in your waiting room for a few hours or listen in on your call center. Find ways to observe how customers use your products and services.

  3. Leverage the power of storytelling. Finally, you should work to bring your data to life using the power of storytelling. We know that stories can be a powerful tool for connecting with your audience.

    Photo of the Nanoleaf warning message.I received a great example of effective storytelling in my speaker’s gift bag at this conference. I received a Nanoleaf LED light bulb. The bulb describes itself as the world’s more energy efficient light bulb and is a marvel of technology. What caught my attention, as well as the attention of the rest of my family, was the list of warnings on the back. Think about this – the warnings are required, but nobody actually reads them. Nanoleaf took a different approach, using copy so compelling we couldn’t put the package down.

    This wasn’t just an attempt to make sure everyone who buys their new, very expensive light bulb reads the warnings. It’s a clear expression of their brand. Take a look at the package (thumbnail right) and I think you’ll see what I mean.

    And no industry has more powerful stories than healthcare. If a light bulb company can be this engaging, just think what you can do!

Unleash your creativity.

It’s important to understand creativity isn’t just about going out and observing, it’s about translating the insights gleaned into a new vision for what’s possible and then communicating that vision effectively.

So get your team together and start thinking of new ways to get outside of your normal routine and get creative!

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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