thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Customer-Centered Small Teams

By on February 6, 2013

I love it when institutions in traditionally stodgy industries transform themselves into juggernauts of innovation by being human-centered. The Center for Innovation (CFI) at the Mayo Clinic is one really successful example. It started with a small team.

The CFI began by applying an accepted model—testing new drugs in clinical trials—and asking why the same tests could not be done on doctor-patient interactions.

Today, it operates as an internal consultancy for the Clinic. Centered on human needs, it deploys multidisciplinary teams of internal and external collaborators to focus on three evidence-based platforms that use a win-win approach which benefits the Clinic as well as the patient:

  • Practice Redesign. Goal: Use new practice models to reduce outpatient costs for Mayo Clinic by 30 percent while improving the patient experience and maintaining and enhancing quality outcomes.
  • Community Health Transformation. Goal: Accomplish a Triple Aim model, which will improve the health of the population served, enhance individual care and the patient experience, and reduce healthcare costs per capita.
  • Care at a distance. Goal: Using pilot programs, develop three sustainable models that extend specialty care from traditional clinic/hospital settings.

The secret is teams. In the Clinic’s own words, it is “providing adequate resources and giving intellectual freedom with minimal initial oversight and short timelines to a small team of unconventional thinkers and change agents. This allows the team to explore new spaces that have the potential to radically alter the health care landscape.”

David Arons in The Future of Talent Is in Clusters writes, “An effective team is a powerful thing. For teams (that trust each other and complement each other), performance is typically much higher than might be expected of the sum of individuals.”

Customer-centered thought leadership usually starts small—with passionate teams whose effectiveness demonstrates the advantages for the remainder of the organization. CFI is still asking questions about how it can continue to transform health care delivery to reduce the complexity for both the provider and the patient. They will be successful because they have given these self-managed teams the freedom to focus on the human factors first ahead of the institutional status quo.


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