Speaker Spotlight Interviews featuring Dan Kraemer of IA Collaborative

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Dan Kraemer
09/03/2020

Dan Kraemer, Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer at IA Collaborative and a keynote speaker in this year's program, is sitting down with fellow speakers and thought leaders to talk about design and business in a period of rapid change. In the Q&A sessions, Dan is drawing upon themes from the talk he gave at the Design Thinking Digital Summit in July, where he presented 4 major trends being accelerated by COVID-19: The Age of Contactless Commerce, The Meet Your Customers Anywhere Movement, Resiliency Over Efficiency, and the Expectation of Business to Address Inequities. The following are excerpts from his conversations.

FEATURED INTERVIEW: Vijay Chakravarthy, Lead Service Designer at Philips 

DAN

Tell me a little bit more about your background and responsibilities at Philips.  

VIJAY

Absolutely. My career has really been riding the waves of what’s been happening in the design industry at large. I started off as an industrial designer in 2005, after I graduated from the University of New South Wales; since then, I've had a chance to work in various consulting firms and corporations, doing  multidisciplinary design work. But over the last 10-15 years, and especially in the last 5 years, there’s been a big push towards developing services and digital experiences to accompany physical products and environments. Products are becoming less of the “hero,” whereas the focus is now on the overall experience. People and users are the heroes, which is a huge opportunity for business.

Philips was traditionally a product-focused organization that relied on mass produced goods that are sold globally. And that model continues to be its mainstay. However, at the Oral Healthcare division that I work in, we have a Ventures team that looks into new business opportunities and service models. We aim to break from the world of traditional processes and change things up a bit through partnerships, new service offerings, etc. Where I came in, was to help with developing the Service Design  strategy to run a smooth service business and experience for all our customers.

DAN

Talk about your key design and business goals, and your challenges right now, especially since March and COVID-19 impacting all businesses.

VIJAY

My big challenge right now is putting together the practice of service design within the Sonicare division of Philips. I’m continuing to build out that service strategy, program and mission – how do we, as an organization, consider the various needs of all partners, the front end, the back end, and everything in between – and how all of that comes together as one seamless experience for the consumer.

DAN

Can you share with me what kind of service design projects you’ve been working on with Sonicare? What’s something that we might look forward to as potential customers? I know for me, the product has been a game-changer; dental visits are a breeze now!

VIJAY

We should record that as a testimonial! Honestly though, that’s awesome to hear – I’ve been in various industries within both product and service design, and with Sonicare, I feel gratified with the feedback we get from customers. It's not often that someone talks about a personal care technology like the toothbrush as a life changing experience that makes them healthier.

I’ll give you two examples of projects out in the world that me and my team have been involved in. One of them is the subscription service model for Sonicare. So if you know of anybody who uses Sonicare, there is a brush head that you need to be  changed up  every three months. We wanted to make it simple & easy for people to find the right brush head and get it delivered to their doorstep at the right time.  With the Sonicare subscription program customers can order it online and a  new brush head arrives at  your doorstep like clockwork. You never even have to think about it, or put a “brush head” on your shopping list again.

DAN

The Dollar Brush Club!

VIJAY

Yes – in a lot of ways it’s a similar model! Another pain point  we uncovered was that, for people considering  a Sonicare power toothbrush for the first time, there can be a little bit of a sticker shock. Especially for people who aren’t viewing it as a long-term investment.  If you're used to buying a $3 toothbrush and you now see a $50 or let's say even $240, which is one of our higher-end models; we wanted to  bring the upfront costs down for people to help them make the leap. This is where subscription models help a lot. It helped us reduce the barrier to entry where people don't have to pay it all upfront. The cost of the brush gets rolled into your subscription model, where there’s a monthly payment for an extended period of time, but you also get a discount for being directly in contact with us at Phillips.

DAN

On the business side of things, when you sign up for the subscription, is there a discount on the toothbrush itself or just a distributed payment over time? 

VIJAY

As a global organization, the models are different and pricing is dynamic around the world, based on the needs of each market.

DAN

This sounds like a smart model; offering flexibility across the world based on markets and users. It helps grow market share over time.

VIJAY

Absolutely. And I think what we are seeing and what we've been able to prove internally in the organization is that, with this kind of a model, not only does it help people get our products with as little effort  as possible – which speaks to IA Collaborative’s Accelerated Futures Model and the hyper-accelerated trend of “The Age of Contactless Commerce” – I mean, in this day and age, do you really want to go out and shop for a brush head that could just show up  at your doorstep? It’s one less step you have to take to lead a healthier life.  

DAN

And it also speaks to our other hyper-accelerated trend of Resiliency Over Efficiency. Because with this subscription service, you are more flexible and adaptable as a business; you’re not just selling widgets, and you also have the ability to vary your pricing structures to what the market will bear.

VIJAY

Totally. And on the resiliency piece, I think one of the things that we're uncovering  is that it's important, even for a company like Phillips, to get in touch with customers directly. Because of this model, we have a chance to interact with our customers more directly, we have better learnings and the ability to even co-create products in collaboration with them. 

Along those lines, I can give you an example of another project that was announced at CES 2020 – the Brushsmart (™) program in collaboration with Delta Dental. People in this program get a Sonicare toothbrush as part of their insurance package. Based on their usage, we get to engage with them and help them improve how they brush. Our Sonicare companion app helps people track their brushing patterns to stay on top of their Oral health.  We have set out to collaborate with insurance companies and strike a partnership where perhaps there is a way to help subsidize healthcare, over the long-term.  We’re starting to explore this now.  

DAN

At IA Collaborative, we often talk about getting “as close to the user as possible.” This seems like the best way to do that, where you’re helping customers be healthy, and it’s a mutually beneficial exchange of information. 

VIJAY

Yeah. And it's very much in line with the kind of organization Phillips is.  We really want to help people. We are a healthtech organization. And a lot of our focus here is really to make sure that the services and the products we develop are not just useful, but meaningful.

DAN

Is there another one of our hyper-accelerated trends (The Age of Contactless Commerce, The Meet Your Customers Anywhere Movement, Resiliency Over Efficiency, and the Expectation of Business to Address Inequities) that you see impacting your business today? 

VIJAY

Regarding your Meet Your Customers Anywhere Movement… the idea of the “impulse buy” in the physical space is eroding…the notion that you’re going to shop in a store, walk around and pick up a bunch of things you hadn’t planned on…it’s a retail model that’s may not  exist anymore. You hear people saying “physical space is dead, it’s all about digital” and you also hear the exact opposite. It’s the mixture of digital and physical that’s going to be so important; and that’s where service design comes in. The problem in most organizations is that the people who manage the physical aspect of products are so totally different from the people who manage the digital aspect, with almost zero cross-pollination. 

DAN

Designers know how to bridge these gaps. At IA Collaborative, we’ve worked with so many organizations who have thanked us for helping their teams integrate and talk to each other for the first time.

VIJAY

Yes, integration is key. In the past, I've done service design for hospitals, looking at the triage process and the service experience and customer journey in the ER. Everything from parking to physical and digital signage, to front office – you have to involve everyone, from engineers and architects to designers and facilities management. Their collaboration is what you experience as a patient.

DAN

What is something that, as a designer, you’d like to create, build, or prototype to address any, or all of these hyper-accelerated trends?

VIJAY

I think there was a time when  I was really, really focused on “what can I design that sees the light of the market”? But now my focus has shifted to, how do we facilitate the making of things that make sense to everybody? And how do we build multidisciplinary teams that work together to achieve that? Until recently, there have been these wonderful academic programs to help you be the best engineer, the best designer, the best architect, the best artist. But there are not a lot of programs that help you understand how to combine all of these competencies to make important and impactful experiences. That’s where the rubber meets the road, and that’s what I want to continue building at Philips. How do we understand and accept the professional frictions that we may have here and there, when multiple people with different competencies come together? As designers we’re taught to accept criticism and critique and to never get married to anything, to always keep building and iterating. Not everyone is trained that way, so how can we democratize that approach and allow for creative friction?  

DAN

Right. There are tools for collaboration, there are processes for collaboration, and there are mindsets that need to be molded, because collaboration in and of itself is actually pretty foreign to a lot of people in business, even today. But as collaborative as we are at IA (it’s in our name!) – we recognize that not everything needs collaboration. We are intentional about making space for heads down and individual work, like creative exploration; and we are also intentional about how and when we bring teams together for building and making.

VIJAY

Yes! I’m going to be speaking about this in my talk at Design Thinking 2020, mostly from a service design standpoint because that’s where intense collaboration is especially required. 

DAN

We’re looking forward to it, Vijay! Thanks for speaking with me today.

VIJAY

My pleasure. I look forward to speaking and meeting everyone virtually!

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