Design Mind frogcast Ep. 27 - How We Venture: Bayer Consumer Health

Our Guest: Bayer Consumer Health + frog Team

On this episode, we’re shining a spotlight on a real collaboration between frog and life sciences giant Bayer, all about building and launching a new corporate venture to deliver proactive, customer-centric, data-driven self-care at scale. You’ll hear from real members of the Bayer Consumer Health and frog team, sharing their perspectives on what it takes to push a 150-year old brand into the future with new business models and methods of innovation—without jeopardizing what’s made them a household name.

Guests today include leads at Bayer Consumer Health, including Dave Evendon-Challis, Chief Scientific Officer, Lily Wong, Digital Transformation Lead and Aquil Harjivan, Digital Products Lead. You’ll also hear from core members of the frog team on the program, including Ethan Imboden, Global Head of Ventures and VP of Design, Daniel Kolodziej, Ventures Director, Kim Gladow, Principal Interaction Designer and Matthias Pielmeier, Associate Strategy Director.

Listen to the podcast episode and find transcripts below. You can also find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotifyand anywhere you listen to podcasts.  

To learn more about Corporate Venture Building at frog, download the Chief Challenges 4: Venturing Forward report.

Episode Transcript:

Design Mind frogcast
Episode 27: How We Venture: Bayer Consumer Health

Guest: Bayer Consumer Health + frog team

[00:09] Elizabeth Wood: Welcome to the Design Mind frogcast. Each episode, we go behind the scenes to meet the people designing what’s next in the world of products, services and experiences, both here at frog and far, far outside the pond. I’m Elizabeth Wood.

[00:26] Elizabeth Wood: Today on our show, we’re talking about building and launching consumer health ventures. To do this, we’re bringing you something a little special. In this episode, you’ll meet the team behind a real collaboration between frog, the creative consultancy behind this podcast, and Bayer, the global life sciences company with over 150 years of serving customers through pharmaceuticals and consumer health innovation.

[00:51] Elizabeth Wood: Bayer’s long history in consumer health means they’ve gotten really good at delivering on what’s expected of them as a brand: scientifically proven, reliable health products and services, easily available over the counter at pharmacies and general stores. But, it also means that growing the business means expanding into new territory to serve evolving customer needs.

[01:11] Elizabeth Wood: Enter frog. In this episode, you’ll hear directly from members of the Bayer and frog team who collaborated on a corporate venture building program to research, design, test and launch a first-of-its-kind platform for digitally enabled self care in service of healthy aging. The opportunity first came to frog through our colleagues at Capgemini Invent, who have a long-standing relationship with the Bayer organization.

[01:35] Elizabeth Wood: Listener note: we won’t be sharing a lot of specifics about the work itself–not its many differentiating features, not the years of research that informed the strategy behind it, not even the name of it. We’ve said it before on this show, but consulting and confidentiality pretty often go hand-in-hand.

[01:52] Elizabeth Wood: But, what the team can share with you is why established companies like Bayer are always seeking new models for innovation–ones that might even be disruptive to the very models that have defined them for more than a century and a half. They’ll share how digital transformation is challenging everything we know about consumer health and wellness, especially in a post-pandemic world, and why corporate venture building is one way of creating something entirely new without jeopardizing the core of your business.

[02:19] Elizabeth Wood: We really hope you’ll enjoy, share with friends, rate and review everywhere you listen–you know the deal. Let us know what you think! We’d really love to hear from you. But first, let’s get to the story. So, let’s jump in.

[02:32] Dave Evendon-Challis: Consumer health is changing in a ton of different ways. The emergence of digital technologies is changing everything.

[02:41 Elizabeth Wood: Life sciences giant Bayer came to frog to build and launch a new venture that uses data, diagnostics and digital tools to drive better health outcomes.

[02:51] Lily Wong: Digital transformation helps us better understand consumer needs and our ability to offer people new products and services.

[02:59] Elizabeth Wood: But launching something new takes a new mindset–and a new way of working.

[03:04] Dan Kolodziej: Ventures is one answer to the corporate growth problem. It’s a way of creating entirely new business models and businesses from scratch.

[03:13] Ethan Imboden: Corporations come to frog to help them to close the uncertainty and capability gaps. But if you’re going to step up to the plate, you need to be intending to hit a homerun.

[03:25] Elizabeth Wood: In this episode, learn why corporations like Bayer are pursuing ventures that leverage startup methodologies and mindsets…

[03:33] Kim Gladow: Organizations like Bayer need to find ways to move faster, test faster, to get things out in the market faster.

[03:43] Matthias Pielmeier: There are always new technologies, new regulations, new frameworks, new customer needs, and you need to be able as a company to adapt to that.

[03:51] Elizabeth Wood: with the ambition of making a real difference for their business, their customers and people everywhere.

[03:58] Lily Wong: It’s just the explosion of data. There’s just so much data out there that a lot of companies like ourselves are still in the infancy stages to figure out: how do we store that data and drive some meaningful insights with it?

[04:09] Aquil Harjivan: How do we maximize people’s chances of getting really better care, better treatment that enables them to live better lives?


Chapter 1: A New Approach to Growing Old

[04:22] Dave Evendon-Challis: Healthy aging is a big challenge. Aging is something that we’re all going to face. We’re all going to want to do something about. Whilst there are visible signs of aging when we look in the mirror, or when we creak as we are getting in and out of our chairs, there’s a lot going on at a cellular level.

[04:38] Dave Evendon-Challis: Hi there, I’m Dave Evendon-Challis, and I am Chief Scientific Officer and Head of R&D at Bayer Consumer Health.

[04:46] Dave Evendon-Challis: In the last couple of years, there’s been new technologies for people to actually measure their biological age at that cellular level, using things like epigenetics.

[04:58] Elizabeth Wood: Epigenetics studies the effects that our environment and our behaviors–like the choices we make about what we eat and how we exercise–have on health. For this program, one of the most important behaviors explored was our relationships with supplements.

[05:11] Dave Evendon-Challis: We know that one of the key factors that impacts your biological age is nutrition, alongside things like diet and exercise, as well as your genetics and lots of other things. So we compare the increasing scientific knowledge about what’s going on at a cellular level with the right kind of interventions–to develop things like tailor-made supplements designed to positively affect the aging process. And in the end, the hope is that we can all manage and measure our aging and take the right steps to stay healthy for as long as we can.

[05:45] Elizabeth Wood: Dave sees this focus on interventions as in line with self-care trends in the consumer health space more broadly.

[05:52] Dave Evendon-Challis: We are an aging population now. And that is shifting the consumer health industry. We have incredibly stressed healthcare systems all around the world, which means that there’s a different emphasis on self care.

[06:06] Dave Evendon-Challis: Within times like COVID, we’ve seen an uptick in VMS and supplements with topics like immunity becoming very much front of people’s minds. And linked to that, I think, a shift from treatment to prevention within self care, which is really important. And accelerating all of this is digital transformation. When you think about Dr. Google, who we all use, and the 200 billion healthcare Google searches every year, it’s a really important part of self care. And I think that’s also accelerated by COVID. Post-COVID 60% of people want to use more technology to talk to their healthcare professional. About a third of people are actually getting treatment done at home. All of these things, I think, are hugely relevant for self care.

[06:51] Elizabeth Wood: But innovating in a sector like health brings its set of challenges.

[06:55] Dave Evendon-Challis: Some of the challenges that we face with innovation are common to others, I think. You know, a hugely competitive landscape at the moment with established players, new startups, the FMCG industry is also getting in on self care as well. So it’s a super competitive environment. And innovation moves really fast in consumer health compared to areas like pharmaceuticals, which gives some challenges and some great opportunities as well.

[07:22] Dave Evendon-Challis: And I think finally, one of the big challenges is around meeting people’s individual needs, but delivering those at scale. That’s what big companies need to do. That’s what we need to crack. And when we think about more personalized solutions, how do you deliver those at scale for people and work that into your business model?

[07:40] Dave Evendon-Challis: I think if you’re a scientist, you love experimenting. And you know at Bayer, we always talk about “science for a better life.” And over the last couple of years, we’ve been thinking really what does that mean for us, particularly in how we innovate?

[07:54] Dave Evendon-Challis: At Bayer, it’s about using science as a differentiator. This is about bringing the science of the human, the science of regulations, the science of discoveries, as well as things like the science of the product experience that we will be delivering, and how we collaborate to deliver all of that together. So it’s a big innovation machine. We continue to evolve our culture of innovation because the world is changing. So we need to innovate differently as well. And that means an increased focus on partnerships to deliver some of these new things.


Chapter 2: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

[08:31] Dan Kolodziej: Ventures is one answer to the corporate growth problem. It’s a way of creating entirely new business models and businesses from scratch. It’s like turning a page in a company’s legacy, and you have a fresh piece of paper, you know, that’s free of organizational inertia. And if you can imagine being able to create a better or a newer or a different version of yourself, free of all of, you know, the trappings that slow down corporates, that’s what a corporate venture offers.

[08:57] Dan Kolodziej: Yeah, my name is Daniel Kolodziej. And I’m product strategy and venture director. I head up the ventures practice here in the UK.

[09:05] Elizabeth Wood: Across industries, corporate venture building has surged in recent years as a means for companies looking to augment or even replace legacy business strategies. For Bayer Consumer Health, the focus is on building and launching something new that’s good for their business, but also good for those committed to healthy aging.

[09:24] Dan Kolodziej: What excited me, was another opportunity to work in health again, which I think, you know, if you’re doing your job right and you work hard, you can potentially make a really positive impact on lots and lots of lives. Something I think we could all do with in today’s kind of chaotic world.

[09:39] Dan Kolodziej: I liked the idea of working with Bayer specifically, knowing that it’s quite a competitive landscape when I think about health tech startups. So having the opportunity to work with an incumbent who’s been around and is widely respected, I think was really exciting.

[09:55] Dan Kolodziej: I think now, perhaps because the barriers to entry in the healthcare space have been somewhat lowered via technological advancements, you know, like DNA sequencing, it allows for a lot more innovation. And it allows for less upfront R&D and investment to get something out in market.

[10:12] Dan Kolodziej: When I think about early adopters–and I glibly define early adopters as people who are in a lot of pain who have deep pockets–and when I think about health specifically, there’s a literal expression or experience around pain. So I just think that given people want to live fuller, healthier, longer lives, there is a strong consumer desire for that. With a strong consumer desire comes a strong market demand. And with that comes a lot of competition in innovation.

[10:41] Elizabeth Wood: And with a lot of competition comes massive investment. Health tech investment more than doubled in 2021. A Statista study forecasts the global digital health market to reach nearly 660 billion dollars by 2025. For Dan, this is where behavioral science has a key role to play in driving real impact in a crowded market.

[11:03] Dan Kolodziej: I think behavioral science gives you a really nice humanistic way of understanding what you want someone to do. It’s based around your cutting-edge understanding of how we work as human beings. I think it makes it more interesting, more credible outside of, you know, the product realm. And I also think that it has the potential to be more potent, certainly when augmented with the methodologies that we brought to the fore in the program.

[11:31] Dan Kolodziej: You’re leaning upon your own experience as a practitioner, but I think that is the essence of a venture and a startup in some ways. It’s just the best possible guess to get you to finding out whether you’re right, for real, with someone either buying or using your thing. Up until that point, it’s purely a theoretical exercise and a way of justifying and directing effort and activity.

[11:56] Elizabeth Wood: But getting good answers means asking the right questions and developing the right internal processes for growth.

[12:03] Dan Kolodziej: I’m a big proponent of Steve Blank’s customer development process. Steve Blank–just for a bit of context–before Eric Ries and the Lean Startup, there was Steve Blank. He’s like the godfather of modern entrepreneurship. You create something that is a representation of something new, you ask people whether they want to buy it or not. So that gives you enough information that you know how to change it in the best possible way. And as you start shaping the proposition around the people that you’ve kind of got half interested, they get more interested, more interested, and people start to self-select, and they give you more feedback and more feedback. And before you know it, you know exactly what you should build. And the people who’ve told you to do that are your first customers. Social media, smoke testing, demand testing, Wizard of Oz–there’s lots of different ways and different labels. That is still a very effective way of doing that customer development process.

[12:55] Dan Kolodziej: Growth hacking is misleading because growth is hard. It’s an activity and it’s a mindset. I don’t think there’s a quick workaround that allows you to get somewhere quicker with less effort. That isn’t that isn’t what growing a business looks like. Specifically in a ventures context, it’s not about decks. It’s not about grand strategies. It’s about something tangible, something real or as close to real as you can get within like the risk boundaries of the corporate.

[13:23] Dan Kolodziej: One of the key differentiators and key benefits of a corporate venture versus a startup is how you harness that competitive advantage. You know, whether it be consumer insight, routes to market, economies of scale, other, you know, in-house resources that have those things, when honed and used in the right way, can be a real edge against startups.


Chapter 3: A Healthy Dose of Digital Transformation

[13:52] Lily Wong: Consumer health is really centered around proactive self-care management. Now with the digital devices and trackers out there so that people are actually proactively managing their health because they care about that to stay healthy, there’s just so much data out there that a lot of companies like ourselves are still in the infancy stages to figure out: how do we store that data and drive some meaningful insights with it?

[14:14] Lily Wong: Hi, my name is Lily Wong and I am the lead for digital transformation IT for R&D and regulatory medical safety compliance function and consumer health.

[14:24] Lily Wong: The beautiful thing about the engagement the team did on this project was that we brought together strong digital capabilities. It was a great combination of strategy, creative meeting technology. And when this combination is done right, a beautiful thing really happens. And you see brilliant ideas can turn into execution rather quickly. With this type of team forming together, we’re really able to de-risk some of the digital health propositions that do not necessarily follow the confines of the traditional product development process.

[14:55] Elizabeth Wood: There are many variables affecting aging: many we feel we can impact, others that are more invisible, or at least feel that way. But if you think about these variables as individual data points affecting our human experience, it’s no wonder why consumer health is increasingly looking toward data science as the key to experimentation.

[15:14] Lily Wong: We look at all types of data in Bayer Consumer Health, whether it’s quantitative data, you know, some things around biometrics–you actually have quantifiable metrics coming from some of the wearables, but also qualitative data. And it’s around consumer sentiment, you know, also around advocacy for some of their products from the different stakeholders and healthcare pyramid. We collect a lot of that data. But the problem is, you know, all this is great, it’s real-world data, but how do you actually capture the data and be able to turn it into evidence?

[15:43] Lily Wong: You see some of the benefits with digital transformation in terms of helping drive some of the internal efficiencies and speeding up processes that actually drive some of this innovation. Not only has digital transformation sped things up internally, the power of data and technology also improves the way we connect with their customers, our consumers and stakeholders. So as an example, a lot of the digitization effort, you know, through that, we’re able to connect our product data through the product development lifecycle for innovation. So once we connect that it’s easier to actually improve the way we communicate the transparency of our ingredients in our products, or even our environmental footprint, which ultimately builds trust with their consumers.

[16:25] Lily Wong: The other thing I will say is that digital transformation helps us better understand consumer needs and our ability to offer people new products and services. And in some cases, it means offering a new consumer-facing digital experience that marries the physical and virtual setting, such as supplementing our physical products that consumers take for self care with an online mechanism for a diagnosis, care and tracking. And we do it in different ways. We’ve been able to pilot it with the test-and-learn methodology, which is a completely new way of actually how do we launch innovations out the door?

[16:56] Elizabeth Wood: Along with the right processes, launching something new often takes the right partnerships.

[17:03] Lily Wong: frog’s work that we’ve done was tremendous. And it’s a testament of how important external partners are to our innovation. We oftentimes look external to partners to fill, I would say, two gaps. One is around expertise and the other one’s around capacity. So around expertise, we look to partner with others to help us think and act differently, to augment our existing teams with skills and experiences that we don’t have innately. The other thing is around capacity. So partnering with others, actually, we’re able to alleviate some of the bottlenecks that we have internally. If we find the right partnerships with the right expertise, plus their ability to flex up and down their teams according to our business demands and the volume of work, it just makes perfect sense. You know, and it takes a while to build these types of great partnerships. So we’re in it for the long haul.

[17:49] Elizabeth Wood: While in it for the long haul, Lily feels a digital-first approach allows teams to put hypotheses to the test quickly.

[17:57] Lily Wong: What’s exciting to me is to see the power of digital transformation, how it’s taking shape on how we improve the overall innovation process and helps us break away from the traditional linear processes and have teams coming together earlier on and to one, generate an enormous amount of ideas quicker and two, to de risk some of these ideas.

[18:19] Lily Wong: Working with external partners, they come with a completely new way of doing things. And they’re not afraid of challenging the status quo or challenging existing processes. You know, a lot of the methodology that we’ve learned together, we built together, incubating some of these digital health propositions is something that frog kind of led us through. Some of the early A/B testing from high level concepts, even all the way to the detailed features and functionalities. We’re able to do it rather quickly using a data-driven approach, which sometimes is not innate to our culture.

[18:49] Lily Wong: We would basically run experiments and based on the experimental results, we can actually go forward with it or we pivot and fail it faster. So as an example, we would run A/B experiments to test a different value proposition such as a pricing model, you know, and some of the additional services we would offer to the consumers in addition to the physical pills or the products that we offer to them. And we would do this A/B testing really quickly to simulate what the desirability of that consumer is. And if it’s not, then we can pivot and change and run a different experiment.

[19:19] Lily Wong: I’m proud to say the success that we had through this proof-of-concept has opened up a lot of eyes internally. There’s a lot of energy and momentum around the possibilities of precision health business models across the company that could be relevant and deployed to many countries.

[19:35] Elizabeth Wood: We’re going to take a short break. When we return, more from the Bayer Consumer Health and frog team.

[19:44] BREAK: Hi, I’m Ethan Imboden, VP of Design and Global Head of Ventures at frog. A Next Economy is taking shape, rapidly and unpredictably shifting the operating environment for businesses. Corporate venture building is a bold strategy for growth and resilience in the face of dramatic change. Download frog’s new Chief Challenges report ‘Venturing Forward’ to find out how to equip your organization for what’s next, to engage your teams to move from hypotheses to results and to defy what’s possible now to inhabit the future.


preview of frog chief challenges episode 4: venturing forward
Featured in this Episode: Chief Challenges Episode 4: Venturing Forward

Download the new frog report: Chief Challenges Episode 4: Venturing Forward.


[20:17] Elizabeth Wood: Now back to the Bayer Consumer Health and frog team.


Chapter 4: Pay No Attention to the Brand Behind the Curtain

[20:26] Kim Gladow: When Bayer was first talking to us about this idea, they kept saying digital platform, but they hadn’t really defined what role it really played. And that’s a lot of what they were looking for us to help them define. They cared about this platform, not just being engagement for the sake of engagement, but really providing real health benefits and outcomes for people that engage with it over time.

[20:50] Kim Gladow: I’m Kim Gladow. I’m a principal designer here at frog.

[20:56] Kim Gladow: Our partnership with Bayer in general is that this idea of kind of one-size-fits-all healthcare is very much over. Most people are looking for health solutions that are quite personalized to them. It’s no longer, you know, “Here’s a blue pill. Everybody, take the blue pill.” It’s a, “Here’s what you’re trying to accomplish. Here’s what we recommend. Is it working? If it’s not, let’s adjust.” But you don’t have to go to the doctor to have that conversation anymore.

[21:29] Elizabeth Wood: Before collaborating with frog on this program, Bayer had invested years of research into healthy aging and consumer behaviors. Now it was time to act on some of these insights.

[21:39] Kim Gladow: One of the main things that we found in our initial research, and that also kind of built on the work that they had already done in their past research phases, was identifying some of the reasons that people either are able to and are motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle and why they may not. So from a behavioral science perspective, a key inhibiting pressure, or one of the reasons that people struggle with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, was that they were often overwhelmed with the amount of information and guidance out there. Part of the role of the digital platform was to be this vehicle to run a deeper assessment on people.

[22:28] Elizabeth Wood: Kim shared that part of the experimentation throughout the design process involved rapid prototyping to test for consumer interest in potential products. Methods like ‘Wizard of Oz’ testing, for example, present consumers with the representation of a product to gauge desirability without giving away who or what is behind the curtain just yet.

[22:48] Kim Gladow: Part of our goal was to then generate a lot of product offering concepts very quickly. And then we translated them into these social media ads that actually went out live on Facebook. And at that point, we were tracking metrics like click-through rate and cost-per-lead. And I think that type of data was not only really good guidance for us, but it also provided really compelling evidence for our clients’ stakeholders. So it was an approach to research that they really were fairly foreign to, but we were able to run this test-and-learn process in just a matter of a couple of months. And even after, you know, two weeks of an ad being out on Facebook, you had a good sense of how it was performing and whether it was something worth pursuing.

[23:44] Kim Gladow: Everything we were creating was really for the purpose of learning. And so we also had to get into the mode of it didn’t actually need to be pixel-perfect as much as we maybe wanted it to be because we were trying to convey an idea, and then test, what is the attraction of this idea? And then how can we build on it to make it more appealing and publish another iteration of it out there?

[24:09] Elizabeth Wood: Developing a deep understanding of evolving consumer needs and behaviors is critical for helping incumbents expand into new domains.

[24:18] Kim Gladow: It used to be that the large corporates dominated consumer health. And that’s very much not the case anymore. There’s a lot of small companies, startups out there that are doing really innovative things. And they’re able to develop those very quickly with very deep customer centricity in mind. And so, I think a ventures approach to a project like this means that ventures really bring some of the methodologies that enable companies like Bayer to invest a relatively small amount of money, but to then learn a lot from it, and that’s part of what we were trying to help them do in this case.


Chapter 5: Testing and Learning and Testing Again

[25:06] Matthias Pielmeier: There are so many holistic health experiences out there like things like Headspace, Calm, Freeletics, all of them, but nothing that’s regarding the topic of aging. It’s all more about exercises are more about mental well being, nutrition, all that type of stuff, but it’s not really tailor-made to your aging journey actually.

[25:27] Matthias Pielmeier: My name is Matthias Pielmeier I’m an associate strategy director here at frog in the design team in Munich.

[25:30] Matthias Pielmeier: We at frog always convince our clients with narratives, right? But the narratives that we come up with always need to be rooted in data, right? Because we need to sell them a strong opinion. Kim, she always says that we’re not in the business of selling the truth, right? Because we can’t. We are in the business of selling a solid opinion. And the test-and-learn approach that we use there was tailor-made to that approach, right? Because it enabled us on the one side, we have quantitative data, qualitative data, but also social media tests, landing page tests to really give a strong recommendation of what are the best performing features? What are the most interesting opportunity areas out there? What’s the financial value that is in there? So this test-and-learn approach really gave us a perfect tool to give a solid recommendation in the end for what are some strategic decisions that Bayer needs to take?

[26:22] Elizabeth Wood: To help Bayer bring a holistic lens to healthy aging, Matthias shared that the frog team looked closely at quantitative and qualitative evidence throughout to inform the design.

[26:33] Matthias Pielmeier: We actually talked to potential customers to understand: What are their pain points? What are their hopes and aspirations when it comes to the individual aging journey? So that’s something that we did to get into strategy with the design team.

[26:44] Matthias Pielmeier: One of the biggest challenges was also that, like, does it make sense for a company like Bayer to invest in that space? Right? So how much money do you need to put into it? What’s the potential financial value that could get out of it to inform that final decision if it makes sense or not to invest in this specific digital type of value proposition?

[27:04] Matthias Pielmeier: With quantitative approaches. There’s a lot more, I would say, science behind it, right? I mean, we have different different methodologies like cluster analysis, max diff analysis, conjoint analysis, classic correlation analysis, where we really can, with a more scientific approach, say that’s a relevant topic, right? We see some patterns in there, we see some clusters in there around specific values. There’s something interesting happening where we then dig deeper into it, and also use all the qualitative data that we gathered before to come up then with a unique insight that could provide a value.

[27:32] Elizabeth Wood: Regardless of the potential opportunity, a human-centered design approach always means leading with empathy to create something with lasting value–without getting lost in the buzzwords and hype.

[27:44] Matthias Pielmeier: We always, as the nature of designers, we always brought a lot of empathy to the table whenever we talk with our customers and potential users.

[27:52] Matthias Pielmeier: There are always new technologies, new regulations, new frameworks, new customer needs, and you also need to be able as a company to adapt to that. Not every buzzword is a huge opportunity for a company, right? Just because some people think we are important doesn’t mean that you need to shift your company strategy towards that and jump on that. But as I said, these ventures are a very good methodology to piloting and to just exploring new domains and to test it if it’s relevant for you. That’s my two cents to that.


Chapter 6: Swinging for the Fences

[28:25] Ethan Imboden: I’m Ethan Imboden. And I’m a Vice President of design and Global Head of the Ventures practice at frog.

[28:30] Ethan Imboden: Some of the new ventures that we build for corporations can and really should attack the current core business that is actually driving the operating profits of the business today. This can feel really risky to the organization because basically, you’re having one of your own teams attack and cannibalize your current business. The reality is, though, that the outside world just doesn’t care If they’re attacking you and eating into your current core business. That’s just what competition does. So this is sort of the self-disruption piece of venture building. But if you’re going to step up to the plate, you need to be intending to hit a homerun. So you need to be ready to swing hard.

[29:15] Elizabeth Wood: Luckily, an organization doesn’t necessarily have to self-disrupt on their own. It can be a team sport.

[29:23] Ethan Imboden: Corporations come to frog to help them to close the uncertainty and capability gaps. What’s remarkable, and I think really enjoyable for us about this venture work is that it is so broadly applicable across industries and geographies.

[29:44] Ethan Imboden: I think that one misconception about corporate venture building is that it can be well and rapidly accomplished while really being pursued in very small steps without a mandate to see it all the way through. I think what’s most critical to, flipping that around, to success is that the team internally to the organization that wants to pursue corporate venture building needs to have a pretty clear mandate to hitting certain key milestones. Some frogs may be sick of hearing me say this, but the only magic that matters is the magic that makes it to market.

[30:25] Elizabeth Wood: But even magic takes practice. That’s where validation testing comes in.

[30:30] Ethan Imboden: Validation testing is a key tool in mitigating risk in venture building. It is not something that happens only once in the venture building process. It is something that starts from the very beginning and continues in perpetuity inside the new business. One thing to call out about the validation testing work that we did was that we were very fortunate to get such clear results. It’s really critical to really choose the appropriate test. First of all, to know what you want, what questions you need to answer. And then secondly, how best to answer those questions in isolation of all the other variables.

[31:13] Ethan Imboden: And what happened in this project was that our results came back pretty black and white around some of the key questions to unlock this opportunity. And that was incredibly helpful in getting a very rapid go-ahead, immediately following the project for the next steps of the venture build. That isn’t always the case. And when it isn’t the case often that means you need to go back and rework, refine, rethink or abandon the value proposition and the venture that you’re looking to build. In this case, the market gave us a resounding yes.

[31:47] Elizabeth Wood: Of course, it’s always difficult to know when to go ahead with or abandon a value proposition. But according to Ethan, there are some easy ways to spot signs that you’re on the right track.

[31:58] Ethan Imboden: When we’re looking at building new ventures, there are a number of characteristics that emerge: category creation, tech interpretation, new behaviors and convergent experiences. I think what’s interesting here with Bayer is that we are in every single one of these spaces.

[32:17] Ethan Imboden: So category creation is introducing a genuinely unprecedented new product or service, which means we need to anticipate how best to guide our audiences and understanding and incorporating into their daily lives. Now, obviously, that carries pretty naturally over into new behaviors. And so here, a new business model, a new technology, a new product category can help to shift or they can require that we shift our behaviors. And with Bayer, we were definitely looking at behavior change, and influence. And behavioral science helps us to reveal how we might influence the promoting and inhibiting pressures shaping how our audience responds so that they can have the best outcomes with our offering. And specifically, in this case, it’s health outcomes.

[33:01] Ethan Imboden: Tech interpretation is when we look at a new technology, and we pose the question, ideally, the technology is quite promising, but it’s promising for what exactly? How should this be deployed in the market? In what format? How do we productize it perhaps? For what audience? And how do we introduce that into the market and then scale out to other audiences from there.

[33:26] Ethan Imboden: And finally, that carries us over to convergent experiences, which is where we move beyond the delineations between the physical or the digital or the virtual or the environmental sort of touch points of an offering. And we’re really bridging across many or all of those. And we’re definitely doing that here. Obviously, you’re having a physical interaction with the product, but then there is a digital platform beyond that and services beyond that. And we need to orchestrate cohesive experiences that flow naturally across all of these different modes of interaction. So I think it’s interesting to look at all ventures and specifically this particular initiative with Bayer as having potentially these opportunity spaces, but also the challenges that come along with them. So again, category creation, tech interpretation, new behaviors, and convergent experiences–really ripe fields of play.

[34:19] Ethan Imboden: I think that people can only pour themselves into work like this, with a good structure for collaboration. So they feel like everybody’s pulling in the same direction. And their contribution is acknowledged and valued and making a difference. And I think there was huge success on both sides in setting that up and operating in such a collaborative and open manner. I know that the teams on both sides really enjoyed it.


Chapter 7: The Best of All Worlds

[34:53] Aquil Harjivan: If we think about how we deliver products today, it’s one product that fixes many ailments. And the thinking behind precision health is that we really personalize those experiences because something that works for me may not work for you, or may not work as well. How do we maximize people’s chances of getting really better care, better treatment and even preventative care that enables them to live better lives?

[35:16] Aquil Harjivan: I’m Aquil Harjivan and I lead digital products within Bayer Consumer Healthcare.

[35:20] Aquil Harjivan: Our mindset when we’re developing specific OTC product development, it looks for a problem with a very specific time point. So if I have a stomachache, I want something to relieve my symptoms. If I have a fever, I want then to lower my fever. And it’s not so much about the holistic user journey.

[35:40] Aquil Harjivan: And I think that’s one of the biggest kind of learnings that that we unlocked with frog was really how can we even hypothesize around user journeys beyond what we’re used to, specifically in ailment phase? And then how do we go about collecting data and information to validate some of that thinking with easy connections with people, consumer and really putting ourselves in that place, right? And then also unlocking a bit of our thinking in terms of technologies, how we drive tech solutions differently with different parts of the journey, so that we’re as holistic as we can end-to-end.

[36:17] Elizabeth Wood: Of course, launching something new doesn’t mean being reckless. Maintaining trust and credibility as you grow is essential for any business, but especially in the heavily regulated health and life sciences industry where so much is at stake.

[36:30] Aquil Harjivan: We definitely want to leverage the power of our brand, right? Because that’s what we’ve built and that’s what we’re known for, which is also the meaning of trust, the meaning of scientific credibility and credentials. So we also do not want to be the gimmicky partner that all of a sudden is just doing consumer experiences for the sake of them, right? We really want to be scientific, data-driven, and actually making a difference for people’s health. And that’s really our ambition when we think and talk precision health, and it was our intention with this program as well.

[37:00] Aquil Harjivan: I think test-and-learn is definitely part of it. I see, I see experimentation at multiple levels, right? Because it is about how we go about validating ideas, putting opportunities out there, launching things that we may not be as comfortable with the web to learn, but then not kill when they do not perform as well. But how do we learn, improve, iterate. And test-and-learn is definitely a concept that I think we tend to deter from, not just as Bayer, but I think as human beings because experimentation is scary. We’re scared of failure. We don’t like failing at things. And actually, people tend to hide their failures, right? You don’t openly talk about or I don’t talk openly about when I failed my driving test when I was at 18 first, right? I think we shy away from these things. But this is how we learn. And so it’s a bigger cultural shift, I think, beyond a model of testing and learning. I think it’s really a cultural shift around opening up for failure, being able to understand it, address it, and then move from that to really drive meaningful and better outputs.

[38:12] Aquil Harjivan: I’m from life sciences. So I did Biomedical Sciences at school, so always a lab guy growing up. When you’re in the lab, you’re on your bench. If things go wrong, if you explode something, no one’s really there to call you out. So I think it goes back to that failure mindset and just really being open to it as well.

[38:33] Elizabeth Wood: By testing and learning, Aquil and team were able to share back their results throughout the team and more broadly within Bayer.

[38:41] Aquil Harjivan: It’s amazing when you’re doing something new, the amount of people that actually rally behind you to support you. So that was super surprising. And actually a really nice experience, right? We had so many members of our team pitching in, really being involved in really curious to just really understand how we were doing things, how we were driving the initiative, and getting it done. So it just shows how hungry I think people are even to this vulnerability, right? To be willing to try things, and not so scared of failing, maybe.

[39:14] Aquil Harjivan: It takes a lot of work right to rally people together and get things done like this. And this is where I think people are hungry for. There is this misinformation, I think, across the industry that the tech world has started doing things in agile ways that are testing and learning and things like that. And people mistake it for being, like, cutting corners. And that’s really not it and I think this approach really demonstrate that the diligence and the amount of effort and work that you put in. When you put people together for three months every day to drive a solution to market and how you validate it, it’s what really drives the success and outcomes that you want to then share with the broader organization and ultimately the external world.

[39:58] Elizabeth Wood: Looking beyond the launch, Aquil feels there’s plenty of reasons to be excited about what’s next for consumer health.

[40:06] Aquil Harjivan: Listen, it’s a super exciting time in the world. Technology’s here. I think it’s just about us rallying the troops, getting the right companies, partners working together to really move the needle from just treating problems to really predicting, preventing and better managing conditions.

[40:25] Aquil Harjivan: I think all this data can only empower us as an industry to deliver better products, more products that are personalized, that are actually truly efficacious for those who actually don’t even get the right to care today. Yeah, I mean it’s the best of all worlds, right? Driving real impact by pulling all of these skill sets together. It’s, yeah, it’s what we got to do.

[40:50] Elizabeth Wood: That’s our show. The Design Mind frogcast was brought to you by frog, a leading global creative consultancy that is part of Capgemini Invent. Check today’s show notes for transcripts and more from our conversation.

[41:01] Elizabeth Wood: We want to sincerely thank the Bayer and frog team for sharing this story with us. That’s a big thanks to the team at Bayer, Dave Evendon-Challis, Lily Wong, and Aquil Harjivan, for joining us. And another enormous thanks to Jeffrey Donald for all the support in making this episode happen. Thanks also to the team at frog, including Daniel Kolodziej, Kim Gladow, Matthias Pielmeier and Ethan Imboden. If you want to know more about corporate venture building at frog, check the show notes for a link to download our new Chief Challenges report, Venturing Forward.

[41:33] Elizabeth Wood: Thank you to our colleagues at Capgemini Invent and to the whole frog global marketing team for their help on this one. Thanks to Senior Copyeditor Camilla Brown for research and story support, and also to Richard Canham of Lizard Media for bringing it all together.

[41:46] Elizabeth Wood: We also want to thank you, dear listener. If you like what you heard, tell your friends. Rate and review to help others find us on Apple Podcasts and  Spotify . And be sure to follow us wherever you listen to podcasts. Find lots more to think about from our global frog team at frog.co/designmind. That’s frog.co. Follow frog on Twitter at @frogdesign and @frog_design on Instagram. And if you have any thoughts about the show, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at frog.co/contact. Thanks for listening. Now go make your mark. 

Elizabeth Wood
Host, Design Mind frogcast & Editorial Director, frog Global Marketing
Elizabeth Wood
Elizabeth Wood
Host, Design Mind frogcast & Editorial Director, frog Global Marketing

Elizabeth tells design stories for frog. She first joined the New York studio in 2011, working on multidisciplinary teams to design award-winning products and services. Today, Elizabeth works out of the London studio on the global frog marketing team, leading editorial content.

She has written and edited hundreds of articles about design and technology, and has given talks on the role of content in a weird, digital world. Her work has been published in The Content Strategist, UNDO-Ordinary magazine and the book Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America (Bogotá International Press).

Previously, Elizabeth was Communications Manager for UN OCHA’s Centre for Humanitarian Data in The Hague. She is a graduate of the Master’s Programme for Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Audio Production byLizard Media
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