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Four Tips to Unlock Innovation in your Regulated Industry

by Emerson Taymor

Four Tips to Unlock Innovation in your Regulated Industry

Mar 30, 2020

If you’re following current trends in Product Management, it seems that everyone is talking about being customer-led, using design thinking techniques and acting with an experimental mindset. If you work in a heavily regulated industry, such as financial services, insurance or healthcare, you may be wondering how you can take advantage of these ideas without being shut down by your colleagues in legal and compliance. 

Many large companies that want to innovate are stuck in the old ways of making products: plan, build, ship, and hope for the big payoff—but what if the payoff doesn’t happen? You could easily spend $1 million to launch a landing page that doesn’t deliver the results you wanted. Then you’ve put your revenue targets (and possibly your position) at risk. What if there were a better way? 

At Philosophie, we have deep experience operating in highly regulated environments. I’d like to share some tips we’ve used to successfully launch learning experiments that help us define and validate the right product features quickly and with reduced risk. 

Align your allies 

It is important to involve legal and compliance colleagues in discussions early, but you need to be strategic about how you start the conversation. First, identify the most innovative or problem-solving team membersㄧthey exist! When you go to them with your idea, the way you frame the ask is very important. Ask them questions that leverage the right side of their brain. 

For example:

“How might we accomplish X”

“What should we be thinking about when we want to do Y”

Make sure not to frame the question in a way that could turn the left side of the brain on first and get them in risk-averse mode. For example:

“What do you think about X?”

“Would Y be possible?”

Use a Fake Brand

When working with our clients, at Philosophie, we often create a fake product brand for these experiments. A big challenge that regulated companies face is that they can’t say they are going to do something that they aren’t actually going to do and many of our early experiments will not see the light of day. Luckily you don’t need to use your actual brand in early experiments.

On a recent project with a Fortune 500 financial services company, we wanted to quickly test an interactive chat experience with consumers. We knew to get approval internally would be an uphill battle. So instead of using their actual brand for our prototypes and interviews, we used a fake brandㄧACME Bank. All of our interviews and designs referenced ACME bank, we even designed a fake ACME credit card.

Our ACME Credit Card

We leveraged a clever trick to get more realistic data during our interviews. In the user interview, we would ask our participants what bank they useㄧfor example in NYC a very popular bank is Chase. Then at the end of the interview, we asked themㄧ“If ACME bank was [Chase], how would that change your opinion of the product?” Almost always this will actually increase trust. 

During one of our first engagements with PricewaterhouseCoopers, we built a mobile application for small businesses to better manage their cashflow. Because this application touched on both their Advisory and Audit practices, there were a number of challenging regulatory situations. We ran dozens of experiments from landing pages to Facebook ads all the way to a full-blown pilot with a fake brand, Business OS. Once the idea had legs we got internal approval and rebranded the full product with PwC’s design system.

Before and After Screenshot

Before Screenshot with a Fake Brand then rebranded in After Screenshot using brand guidelines

Use a buffer company

One luxury that working with a firm such as Philosophie provides is that you have a buffer from your organization and the end-users or the experiments. Additionally, we are able to put in contractual language to protect your company, this includes liability insurance. 

We frequently will charge services like Unbounce or Facebook Ads to our credit cards. When running user interviews, we keep our clients off the calendar invites and emails so users interact with us at Philosophie and never see or are exposed to our end client. This added layer limits the chance that a user will find out that we are doing a project for a big brand and again provides your legal team with that extra bit of confidence.

If you don’t use a studio like ours, you can take your fake brand to the next level and purchase new email addresses with the fake company. Use that and personal credit cards (hopefully you can expense!) to keep the brand out of it. Of course, it isn’t perfect, but it could be worth exploring!

NDA your participants

When you run qualitative interviews as part of your experiments it is good practice to have your participants sign a basic release document. At the most basic level, this should give you the confidence to use their images and quotes internally. In addition to the release, we typically have our participants sign an NDA and also include a basic privacy policy. For example, we will take proper security measures for their videos and will not share them externally. 

This protection will give your compliance team confidence that you are dotting your Is and crossing your Ts. Giving legal confidence that you know what you are doing will give you air cover to run experiments that may be outside their comfort zone.

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Hopefully, these tips will give you the confidence to experiment despite being in a regulated space. Get out there and get learning! And of course, if you need more help planning, executing and tracking your experiments safely we are only an email or phone call away.

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Emerson Taymor is Philosophie's Cofounder and CRO. Emerson is passionate about working with clients to eliminate waste from enterprise software. Outside of work, he loves to travel and is an avid sports fan.

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