Challenge: A few years ago, biotech firm Genentech believed they’d found a way to trigger the immune system to attack cancer cells. They were eager to get a medicine to market. But clinical trials are costly and complex, and government regulations require strict safety protocols. Plus, there was heavy competition and time pressure from other labs. Genentech needed to get patients and doctors into their clinical trials faster, while meeting stringent regulatory requirements.
Story: The first step to any trial is an “Investigator Meeting” to educate the doctors, nurses and support staff involved. These meetings are critically important in setting the stage for the success of the trial and the quality of the patient experience. And they’re typically mind-numbingly boring.
Our Genentech Think Wrong Blitz focused on engaging doctors and nurses more effectively, speculation that a better meeting would lead to better outcomes for everyone. We invited folks from across departments, including execs, scientists, and marketers. Only first names—and no titles—were allowed, creating the meritocracy we know leads to stronger, faster, more diverse ideas.
Using drills from all six Think Wrong Practices, we helped Genentech conceive a portfolio of small bets that could have big impact. Rather than dragging attendees through endless data and regulations, they’d tell the story behind the medicine: scientists who worked on it, the patients who need it. Using gripping narratives and design, they’d create a larger mission the participants could feel part of.
They rolled out this strategy just two months later in Atlanta. Instead of a lifeless airport hotel, the meeting was held at the Historic Academy of Medicine. The scientists were coached to present the medicine in compelling ways and an emcee kept things running smoothly, The team turned ‘protocols’ into human stories and capped the meeting with a portrait session so Genentech could later thank everyone who’d helped bring the medicine from lab bench to bedside.
Results: Genentech repeated these seemingly small changes across the globe. The effect was staggering. Surveys reported the best investigator meeting doctors and nurses had ever attended. Rather than a cog in a wheel, they had become an integral part of a world-wide experiment to cure a fatal disease.