Preventing Shiny Object Syndrome in Digital Health Innovation September 21, 2015

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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I see Shiny Object Syndrome very often in the world of marketing. MediaPost defines Shiny Object Syndrome, or SOS as “chasing after the latest digital innovation with little planning, thinking about whether it will work for the organization, or buy-in from the people responsible for making it happen.”

Marketers and brand managers hear about brands with innovative campaigns or technology and want to implement them immediately for their client. Often they want the process expedited so that it can be pushed into market sooner, which could potentially hurt the project in the long run.

In the past, innovation in healthcare happened only within the R&D departments of medical manufacturers, but now we are starting to see a shift in this model. Hundreds of new digital health companies have been funded since 2012, with a focus on consumer health, wellness, and a rise of personalized health.

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International Journal of Health

It is important to take a step back and really consider whether this particular innovation would be driving the clients’ business goals and strategic imperatives. People with SOS risk focusing too much on being innovative that they lose sight of the actual problem they are trying to solve. Bankruptcy courts are filled with what once seemed like clever software programs and digital innovations that were created under the thinking that customers would want them. Successful innovators take a step back before building and executing these ideas to understand what problem they could solve with their new digital offering.

If you want to sustain and support digital health innovation for your client long term, there are a few key steps that you have to take in order to be successful:

1. Awareness and Education: This is where you learn about an innovation and really start to understand the nuances of the offering so that you can make a decision about whether or not it would be beneficial for your client in the long-term.

2. Engagement and Capacity Boosting: Start testing pilot initiatives and determining whether it makes sense to move forward with the innovation. Is it making a process more efficient? Is it solving a business goal? Does it have a measurable impact? This is where we implement a series of small, low-risk, low-cost experiments designed to test the assumptions behind a new offering and ensure that it is the strategic direction we want to go.

3. Proficiency and Scaling: Successfully utilize the digital innovation in ways that positively impact the client and their key business objectives.

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MediaPost/Fard Johnmar

This process seems very simple and rudimentary, but it helps provide an outline for implementing the latest digital innovation from initial awareness to leveraging technologies at scale. It forces marketers to ask the right questions about their clients’ goals (short- and long-term), target audiences, and plan for how the digital innovation would fit into the larger picture for the brand.