Pete Madson moved to China in 2007 to open Worrell’s Shanghai office. Read on as he discusses his firsthand experiences and perspectives on the importance of understanding local culture before starting the innovation process.
How does local culture influence the design process?
Pete: The majority of China’s population lives in lower-tier cities and rural areas, meaning that price sensitivity and patient affordability are driving factors in all phases of our design process. A typical product development mindset in the West is to adopt new technology, add features and improve durability and quality—typically at the expense of cost. In China (and much of the world), the same clinical outcome or benefit is still required, but various economic constraints force us to look for ways to reduce, eliminate or substitute in order to drive down cost. The only way this can be done effectively (without sacrificing margins) is to spend time observing and probing key stakeholders in the target markets. By doing this, we will quickly discover how to prioritize the product features, and in many cases, what can be eliminated without compromising the desired benefit.
Can you tell us more about the culture at Worrell’s Shanghai office?
Pete: In 2007, we opened our Shanghai office to meet the needs of our foreign multinational healthcare clients. At that time, we recognized the importance of establishing a local backbone for our business while rounding out the team with top talent and influencers from around the world. For this reason, the majority of our staff are Chinese nationals who understand local mentality and culture, while the rest of us are foreign nationals who bring a deeper understanding of Western methodology and communication style to seamlessly interact with our foreign multinational client base. This multicultural “East meets West” office environment is in many ways a microcosm of the dynamic city of Shanghai itself.
What steps have you taken to immerse yourself in the Chinese culture?
Pete: ete: One of the reasons I went into design is because I wanted to spend my career discovering new things and experiencing the world. After spending the last seven years in China and other parts of Asia, I’ve gained an invaluable and entirely new perspective on life – both personally and professionally. We constantly immerse ourselves alongside local physicians, healthcare providers and patients in order to discover the unmet needs of this unique market. This always provides the opportunity to understand, empathize and gain valuable insights that can later inform the design process.
In case you missed it, check out our office video “In China, For China,” which provides an overview of medical device development for the Chinese market.