How Can You Spot Opportunities That Other People Miss?

You need to understand what the jobs to be done are

When we work with clients to build their brand we start by identifying what the opportunity spaces are by looking for answers to the question 'What are the ways that the world could be better because of how this product could be used?'. For us, an opportunity space is any commercial opportunity that someone could realise. This is a broad category and intentionally so. This is a key step in the brand building process since it broadens your perspective of what the opportunities could be. Often, we work with teams who are so deep into the science of what the product does that it is challenging for them to see all the ways that the value of the product could be realised in the real world.

The danger in thinking narrow is that it limits the opportunities you could consider as a business. Also,  the chances are, that other companies are thinking narrow so you are much more likely to end up competing for the same opportunity as someone else. Competing can use up a lot more resources compared to identifying a clear space and winning in it.

Without this broad perspective you could miss opportunities like liraglutide (Victoza, currently used to treat type 2 diabetes) or etanercept (Enbrel, currently used to treat Rheumatoid and other forms of arthritis) for the management of Alzheimer's disease or everolimus (Afinitor/ Zortress, originally developed for organ transplantation) in multiple types of cancer. As in strategy, more widely, surprise can be a key part of success; as the ancient Chinese military general Sun Tzu is reputed to have said, "All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved."

How do we approach uncovering the opportunities others miss?

We base our approach on thinking originally developed by Clayton Christensen around exploring the 'jobs to be done'. When a customer hires a product to do a job they make a purchasing decision. They do this based on an internal set of 'hiring' criteria; this is their shorthand for making decisions. Understanding the details of the context that led to that decision is key to understanding the relative importance of the hiring criteria. You also need to understand the more fundamental level of mental processes for how humans make decisions.

Daniel Kahneman's work on decision-making, for which he won a Nobel Prize, identifies two human systems of thinking which are System 1 and System 2. System 1 is fast and intuative, whereas System 2 is slow and methodical. When we think about doctors it is easy to convince ourselves that they make decisions rationally based on the science, using System 2. In reality doctors have the same flaws as the rest of us, they are human and they make decisions as such. Fortunately, medical training involves a great deal of information review and analysis, which doctors continue to devote time to throughout their careers, meaning that their decisions are well-informed, but they are still making rapid System 1 decisions. If doctors, like the rest of us, attempted to make System 2 decisions each and every time they would find it very difficult to function. Don't believe us? Try this!


Here is a quick experiment you can do to prove how difficult it would be to make System 2 decisions and still function as normal. Find a friend, or colleague, and ask them to walk along beside you at an even pace. Once you are walking ask them to count backwards from 100 taking away 7 each time i.e. 100, 93, 86 etc. Now notice what happens to their walking pace. What you will notice is that they slow down, or even stop. This is because tackling the task requires System 2 thinking and System 2 thinking takes up a lot of our brains' computing ability at any moment in time. Because of this we have to slow down or stop doing other things that we are doing, including simple tasks like walking.

A doctor could not get through their daily workload using only System 2 thinking, it is just too slow, so they have to use System 1 thinking. This is why treatment algorithms have been developed, why A&E and cardiac teams closely follow checklists and protocols; because these tools limit the influence of the subjective elements of System 1 thinking.

You have to explore the jobs that doctors are trying to get done and the mental short hand, their hiring criteria, that they have developed to make those decisions. How those decisions are made involve the functional factors of the challenge they face (the job) but also involve the emotional and social factors: how they feel or want to feel about their decision (the emotional) and also how they want others to interpret their decision and what they would think of them (the social). 

Key to understanding the importance of uncovering 'jobs to be done' when building a brand,  is appreciating that when someone hires your product to do a job at the point of making that decision they are not hiring your product for what it does they are hiring it for the promise of what they believe it will do. That belief in the promise is what brand is. Having a brand that resonates with the jobs to be done of your customers is the foundation of success.

If you understand this you also need to understand the cognitive biases that are implicit in human decisions. Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways and they can lead to deviations from the rational or good judgment. One of the most well known is confirmation bias. This is where someone looks for information that supports a decision or judgment they have already made. When a customer hires your brand (because we now understand that a customer hires the brand and not the product because they hire based on their belief of the promise of what it will do) they will look for information that supports the hiring decision they have made. Key to the ongoing success of your brand is making sure that this supportive information is available and easily accessible for your customers, so that the story of the brand is known and makes sense.

When we are thinking about changing human behaviour we need to recognise that there are 2 forces that promote behaviour change. These are the push of the current situation and the attraction (pull) of the new solution. There are also two forces that block change of behaviour. These are anxiety of the new solution and habit of the present. Habit of the present is very much System 1 thinking, it is our learned response. We also need to recognise that in a healthcare setting there are many structures in place that support 'habit of the present'. This can be things like nurse support, specific clinics, funding, targets and measurement criteria and treatment protocols to name a few.

To change the habits of the present you need to trigger new ways of thinking that support the push of the situation and convey the attraction of the new solution and this is the role of brand and marketing activities.