Innovation Trend: Releasing Your Inner Professional(s)

 Photo by John Goode

Photo by John Goode

Our firm has been deeply immersed in healthcare over the last 24 months and, as such, has become quite familiar with the notion of the ‘consumerization’ of healthcare – the progressive shift of decision-making power to the end-user. Worth exploring further, this has exposed a higher-level but related trend in the concept of the ‘professionalization’ of the consumer, relevant to any industry.

A number of factors have led consumers to reprioritize what services they turn to professionals for. The economic downturn of 2009 has had lasting implications, pushing consumers to be more resourceful and creative. Advances in technology, coupled with a dramatic decrease in costs and more knowledgeable consumers, have led to a huge shift in jobs-to-be-done from the professional to the consumer.

Consumers are now more tech-savvy and experimental, comfortable taking on more sophisticated tasks. They are seeking information and services that increase their knowledge and capabilities and remove the need for professional help (and that information is available 24/7 via the Internet). Thus, consumers have decided to in-source many traditional services that provide results on demand. In the past, consumers went to dermatologists for dermabrasion, dentists for teeth-whitening, hair salons for coloring, etc. – now there are accessible, DIY kits for all of these on the shelves at your local drug store.

These changes mean we have all become Swiss Army knives. The implications are fascinating as we think about the professionals who are, in effect, becoming commoditized. How will they compete?  It’s not an entirely negative story though, merely the storm surge prior to a nor’easter of innovation. The opportunities are boundless as these changes make waves, within professions and amongst the ranks of consumers. In healthcare, for example, the entire continuum of care (from home to hospital and back again) is now fair game for a redesign. Services are reaching into parts of the continuum in new ways, or making transitions from heretofore-unconnected parts easier, or connecting the whole thing. With this trend, I believe that the question isn’t When will it end? rather What’s next?

What do you think?  What are some more examples of designing for the professional consumer?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

- Clay Maxwell (@bizinovationist)