The Secret To How Life Science Marketing Teams Are Executing Better Ideas – Faster!

by Jul 22, 2021Team Potential

In 2020 47% of companies grew revenue and 44% had declining revenue*. It is also likely that a good number of companies will close their doors in 2021; even companies that were doing well before the pandemic.

So what are companies that are growing today doing differently?

How are these companies identifying growth opportunities when others are not?

And how can life science marketing teams learn from these other industries to uncover better solutions to challenges that HCP value highly?


What are customer-first & agile life science teams doing differently?

Companies that are driving innovation & growth at speed have thrown out the old playbooks. Adopting innovation, agile, and design thinking tools. 

And their number one attribute is their ability to pivot at speed.

“69% of Cx0 said their firms failed to be prepared and underinvested in online strategies before the pandemic”

But many companies that had not embedded digital-first thinking and new business models successfully before the pandemic are still struggling. They are finding it difficult to adapt their products or services and to serve customers online. One of the reasons for this is that they are using outdated frameworks & tools to make decisions, validate and execute.


What is the Design Sprint?

The design sprint is a four-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping and testing ideas with customers. Developed at Google Ventures, it’s described as the “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behaviour science, design thinking, and more—packaged into a battle-tested process.

The design sprint gives teams a SUPERPOWER: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments.

Life Science teams with complex problems to solve and multiple stakeholders to engage with, get stuck in the cycle of endless meetings that over time reduce energy, creativity, and momentum.

In 2019 I was working in-house on a Sales Force Marketing Cloud (SFMC) implementation project with an Australian pharmaceutical company, with the goal to improve email as a channel.

Unfortunately, the project became centred on the technology not the needs of healthcare professionals (HCPs).

After 4 months not one email had been sent out.

I walked away from that project believing the team had lost sight of the project goal and had not aligned on what success would look like.

Around that time I came across the Design Sprint – from Google Ventures. It’s a process that compresses months of work, into days.

Based on my most recent experience, where I had seen a misalignment in the outcomes of the project, this got my attention.

I immersed myself in learning the Design Sprint & have since utilised the approach with life science clients with great success.

I chose to learn from the best in utilising the Design Sprint in complex organisations, AJ&Smart, a Berlin-based agency, who, having partnered with Jake Knapp (who wrote the book Sprint), have become the global leaders to help solve BIG challenges for the likes of Lego, Twitter & Slack.

It’s been fantastic to have the AJ&Smart team to lean on as I adapted the Design Sprint for life science commercial teams. 


What challenges does the design sprint help solve for life science teams?

The Design Sprint has been used to enter new markets, design new products, develop new features for users, define marketing strategies, and much more.

If you are asking “How might we reimagine customer engagement in the digital age?” then the Design Sprint will provide a proven framework to provide answers.

“The Design Sprint is a tool to stop talking and start doing”

I thought it would be helpful to share some examples of how leading companies (including AJ&Smart) have used the Design Sprint to help marketing teams solve critical challenges.


Example 1:

Client: United Nations World Food Bank

Agency: AJ&Smart

Product; Share The Meal

BIG Problem; End world hunger faster using disruptive technologies. Create a simple, transparent solution that would reduce the friction and “hidden fees” of donating to charities while reducing the complications normally associated with donating to charities.

Design Sprint focus; Increase the “Donation Amount” 

and the Sprint Question they focused on was 

“Can we nudge people to donate for One Week instead of One Day.”

Outcome: Used the Design Sprint to bring the app to market as fast as possible, then to solve very specific challenges the app faced once it exploded in popularity. The app went on to win Google and Apple’s best apps of 2015 as well as gold at the SXSW 2016 and the Webby’s 2016!


Example 2:

Client: Flatiron Health

Agency: Google Ventures

Product; Clinical Trials

BIG Problem; help cancer patients find the right trial fast (cancer patients don’t have time to wait)

Design Sprint focus; to make clinical trials available to anyone who was eligible. “More cancer patients enrolled in clinical trials”

Outcome: helped the team realise that research coordinators (the folks who administered clinical trials) were actually more important than the doctors and patients. By the end of the sprint, they had tested a prototype with this group and gotten enough positive feedback to move forward with the project.


Example 3:

Client: Danone Water

Agency: Board of Innovation

Product; Food & Beverages / Chinese Market

BIG Problem; define a new strategy & develop 6-8 user-validated food and beverage concepts.

Design Sprint focus; in Shanghai with 30 employees from 3 departments (marketing, packaging, and R&D) defined a specific challenge for 3 personas, divided the participants into 3 multidisciplinary teams, and assigned them 1 persona each to test & validate new products.

Outcome: Developed 2-3 new food and beverage concepts validated with feedback from their target consumers along with a ready-to-taste prototype, appealing storyboards, and promotional narratives. Next, the core team proceeded to refine the concepts, with the aim of launching some of these concepts into the Chinese market.


The Design Sprint helps life science teams move from abstract to concrete, keeps the team focused on what is important, & aligns decision-making with a clear action plan to implement. Design Sprints work for teams of any size, and are ideal for bringing cross-functional teams together.


Next time you have a super tricky heathcare challenge to solve, then use the Design Sprint to move from the problem to a customer-validated solution at speed. It’s the framework that will supercharge innovation, customer-first thinking & executional agility.


*The DNA of Adaptive Organisations / The Economist Intelligence Unit 2020

 How equipped is your organisation to reinvent how it anticipates, designs & implements change?

The design sprint is an ideal tool if you want to design customer-centric solutions, and you don’t want to spend months building a solution that doesn’t have the customer impact you thought it would.

But what if your vulnerability as a life science team is anticipating change? What if you are spending time designing & implementing solutions that aren’t future-fit?

Complete our Change Readiness Diagnostic and within minutes uncover where your organisation’s vulnerability is.

Note: 62% of global companies who complete the diagnostic have anticipating change as their vulnerability


Divergent is a life sciences transformation partner; We are your people capability partner, committed to accelerating your organisation’s CX & omnichannel transformation goals. 

Divergent is on a mission to transform life science commercial teams into the powerhouses we know they can be. Too much potential in commercial teams goes to waste – but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Through our Tomorrows Bridge Builders team program & Today-Tomorrow leaders program, Divergent harnesses a team’s potential to help them accelerate the evolution of customer engagement strategies & be equipped for sustained change.