July 1, 2016

Education Innovation – We Begin Again

By mary

As we re-ignite our efforts to test out how the Mayo Education Innovation Lab could build new products, we recently kicked-off a second phase of our process. The first phase of the Innovation Lab focused on a Design Thinking process to create several prototypes, one of which showed promise. During this second phase, we started to design and execute a process to validate and build a business around this or a related product. We engaged with a product design and development studio called thoughtbot to partner with us during this phase. Abhi Bikkani and Jeannie Poterucha Carter are continuing on the project from the Mayo side, as we further developer our innovation toolbox.

We’ve had a lot of great feedback and help from many people throughout Mayo in various disciplines -- for this we're very grateful!

OnPar Prototype Success

Building on the positive signs witnessed in the “Cases” prototype, we had developed and launched OnPar (http://getonpar.herokuapp.com/), a game prototype for healthcare professionals to engage and learn with real-life cases. We immediately witnessed a couple promising signs:

  • The gameplay dynamic elicited excitement and seemed to be a genuinely fun way to learn with real-life cases
  • Visitors shared the link to their colleagues, virally increasing the traffic beyond our initial messaging campaign

We believe we addressed a compelling topic in an interesting way, and it resonated with our community. In order to capitalize on these indicators of traction, we wanted to take it to the next level and view the idea through the lens of a product and a business.


Building on our learnings from the previous ideation, prototyping, and testing cycle done with Neo, we began a new phase to determine the viability for a potential product similar to our prototype. We have several goals for the phase that aim to deliver benefit to Mayo, the health practitioner community at-large, and our innovation lab process arsenal:

  • Use Customer Development and Lean principles to discover a product-market fit for OnPar
  • Further develop Mayo’s toolbox to include Lean validation methods to work complimentary to our user-centered discovery process

We kicked-off again in mid-April at our Gonda building location to set the course for the project.

Introducing the Customer Development Process

In the first phase, we used a Design Thinking process to uncover unknown pain points, desires, contexts, and life goals of our research participants. That led us to some amazing ideas and product visions, resulting in our OnPar game prototype.

Armed with ideas grounded in reliable data, we transitioned into building a business with what is known as Customer Development. Although the two approaches seem similar, they differ in subtle ways.

Steve Blank, author of The Startup Owner’s Handbook, and a leading proponent of Customer Development, sums up the differences:

  • Moving with speed, speed and did I say speed?
  • Starting with a series of core hypotheses – what the product is, what problem the product solves, and who will use/pay for it
  • Finding “product/market fit” where the first variable is the customer, not the product
  • Pursuing potential customers outside the building to test your hypotheses
  • Trading off certainty for speed and tempo using “Good enough decision making“
  • Rapidly building minimum viable products for learning
  • Assuming your hypotheses will be wrong so be ready for rapid iterations and pivots

- Steve Blank (https://steveblank.com/2014/07/30/driving-corporate-innovation-design-thinking-customer-development/)

Working together over the coming weeks, we will assert hypotheses and get them validated or invalidated by putting experiments in front of our potential customers.

Business Model Canvas

To get started, we created several iterations of a Business Model Canvas in individual and group settings. A Canvas is a template to organize our vision for the business and how it offers values to the problems of the customer. It conspicuously focuses on the customer’s problems and our value offerings, instead of a concrete product. This enabled us to view how our value propositions connect to the problems people have in real life.

These are just a few images of the individual canvases we did while brainstorming.

File_003 IMG_8869 IMG_8874



We worked together and consolidated down to two representative Canvases:

1.  Knowledge Gaps


A model addressing the needs “Educators” and “Learners” have regarding knowledge gaps and exposure to a breadth of cases.

2.  Maintenance of Certification Credits


A model addressing the need for practicing clinicians to earn MOC and Continuing education credits, and the potential to offer a unique way to obtain these credits.

(Find the free digital tool used to create these canvases at http://leanstack.com).

Qualitative In-Person Validation

The simplest way to validate a hypothesis is to speak with (potential) customers and put forward your ideas and measure their reaction. This typically involves sitting down with a customer and speaking with them for 30 minutes to one hour and presenting them with your hypotheses. We posed our problem statements and value propositions to the participants. All participants were educators in some capacity (Program Directors, Course Directors, Orientation Directors, Faculty, and practicing clinicians.)

A positive reaction from a participant during a conversation is not necessarily predictive of actual behavior, but a negative reaction could be an indicator of friction or conflict. By posing some of our ideas to the potential customers themselves, we were able to catch any large pitfalls we might have otherwise missed in a later experiment.

Once we are comfortable with our hypotheses’ gut-checks, we move onto more robust experiments which take more effort to construct.

Qualitative Signup Experiment for Learners


To follow up on the exciting traction from the OnPar prototype release, we felt we needed further validation that learners would sign up for OnPar in the wild. So, we decided to create a Landing Page experiment by taking the following steps:

  1. Create a single-page publicly-accessible landing page presenting 3 values provided by OnPar
  2. Ask for an Email signup in exchange for access to OnPar.
  3. Create a Facebook ad targeted to a particular segment (in this case, we chose U.S. medical Residents at large) and drive a few hundred of them to the landing page.
  4. Measure the proportion of visitors to email signups.Hypothesis: if people are genuinely interested, they will feel comfortable enough to provide us with their email.
  5. We currently consider 25% a success, but without a baseline, we may adjust this definition of success (e-commerce industry is about 1.5%, but not very analogous to our experiment).

We created an Experiment card in our Trello board for tracking its progress:

We chose the narrower potential Learner customer segment to make our task more straight-forward for ad targeting, but we are by-no-means focused just on this group.


After building the landing page with email signup, we used Facebook’s ad targeting utilities to identify a pool of approximately 15,000 Residents around the US.

Below is a portion of the landing page, with the call-to-action to provide an email. We are kicking off the campaign this weekend, and look forward to sharing the results in an upcoming blog post!


Assumptions Board

We also monitor our assumptions, so we can try to test them. Assumptions are often hard to spot, and it takes every team member to recognize when we appear to be taking an unsaid one for granted. So, when we discover one, we put it up on the board and subsequently attempt to form an experiment to validate or invalidate it.

We would add to this assumptions board on-the-fly as we were doing other activities, and identified one.


Please comment and share your ideas, your leads and your enthusiasm!  We look forward to hearing from you!


Tags: Customer Development, Experiments, Prototype, Testing, Weekly Updates


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