Why You Need a Strategic Facilitator to Guide Your Medical Device Development Project

 In Design Strategy, Medical Product Design

For many companies, the first step in producing the right medical device is hiring the right design and engineering partner. In fact, hiring the wrong one can be catastrophic. The unfortunate thing is, you might not know you’ve made the wrong choice until it’s too late.

The reason? Many agencies act as little more than order-takers. They execute on the solutions their clients bring to them and take it on faith that those solutions are addressing the right problems. Their execution may be flawless. But that won’t matter if your product is strategically out of bounds.

The truth is, you need a design and engineering partner who is a strategic facilitator — not just an order-taker. You need an agency that sees the big picture and asks deep questions before landing on a final direction for your product.

At MPE (Formerly Mindflow Design) , we offer holistic, end-to-end medical device development services from initial concepts all the way through manufacturing support. We have the design and engineering chops to execute on any vision. But we never move forward without first making sure our clients are headed in the right strategic direction. In fact, our approach and processes are all structured to ensure that we design and develop the right product to meet our client’s — and the market’s — needs.

What Does it Mean for a Medical Device Design Agency to be a Strategic Facilitator?

When it comes to medical device design agencies, there are order-takers and there are strategic facilitators. (Of course, this distinction isn’t all black and white. Many agencies exist along a continuum between the two poles.)

Order-takers may have a high level of design and technical know-how, but they don’t act as full strategic partners. Instead, they are primarily concerned with executing on solutions that have already been defined by their clients. This type of partnership can work well enough. But it almost never results in the best, most innovative products. Good or bad, the outcome is predicated almost entirely on the medical device company’s understanding of the market and its users.

Make no mistake: Medical device companies are domain experts. Their understanding of their own markets and end users is critical. However, as any business that is deeply embedded in a particular industry will tell you, it can be hard to see the label from inside the jar. Order-takers almost never question a client’s conventional wisdom. But the best solutions often fall just outside those prescribed boundaries.

Unlike order-takers, strategic facilitators help clients get to the heart of a problem before arriving at a solution. Even if you go to them with a well-defined problem or solution in mind, they won’t come to the table with a preconceived notion about what the outcome will be. They approach any new medical device development project with curiosity rather than certainty. And they don’t act as if they have all the answers because they understand that they must first ask the right questions.

Is Your Prospective Agency a Strategic Facilitator or an Order-Taker?

You can often tell whether an agency is a strategic facilitator or an order-taker based on how they speak with you from the very beginning. The questions they ask (or fail to ask) during your initial conversations with them are revealing.

Order-takers will want to know the details of your project as it has already been conceived. They will focus more on technical specs, timelines, and budgets right out of the gate. Strategic facilitators, on the other hand, will spend much more time asking questions that prompt you to think differently about your business challenge. They will probe (at times in ways that may seem challenging) to make sure you are solving the right problem with the right solution.

MindFlow’s dual focus on design and engineering is part of what gives us our edge. Many medical device firms lead with engineering. That makes sense. After all, medical devices are highly technical, and it’s crucial that they perform well. However, engineers are often geared toward finding solutions within a given set of constraints. They are very well-versed in what is and isn’t doable. Designers, meanwhile, have a wide-open sense of what’s possible. (Q: How many designers does it take to change a lightbulb? A: Does it have to be a lightbulb?)

MindFlow’s out-of-the-box designer mindset allows us to think creatively as we explore possible solutions with our clients. But we back it up with the realism and technical know-how of our engineering team — and a tried-and-true structure that helps our clients arrive at the right solutions.

How MindFlow’s Process Enables Project Facilitation

MindFlow has spent more than a decade refining a process that puts structure around the idea of strategic facilitation. This process allows us to work with our clients to get to the root cause of their problem and then solve it.

It all begins with our Discovery Workshop, which is the first step in our Guideway™ Design and Development Process. This 1-2 day intensive workshop is the kick-off to new medical device development projects. We use this time to identify gaps and ask challenging strategic questions that determine what sort of device we will ultimately produce together. Why are our clients pursuing this project? What problem does it solve? And what challenges exist that must be taken into consideration? Our goal is to look at a planned device from every angle and identify possibilities that haven’t yet been considered.

As we continue with our Guideway™ system, we carefully narrow down a direction, identify a solution, and — finally — execute on it. Strategy, creativity, and technical prowess form the holy trinity that drives our proven process.

By acting as strategic facilitators, we support our clients in identifying and prescribing the right solution. By the time we arrive at our final destination, we have no doubts that the device we are building will meet our client’s business objectives — and find success in the market, too.


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