Innovation and ideation in the dental device industry for product managers
There are a lot of people working on medical devices today. It has been a hot area now but I thought it would be interesting to talk with the CEO of a medical device company that started more than 100 years ago, in 1913. That is a company with four generations of history. The current CEO is Julie Charlestein and the company was founded by her great grandfather. The company is Premier Dental Products. Julie is well-respected in the industry and has served on dental medicine boards for several universities.
We discussed a recent product they brought to market – one my dentist likely used on me recently – and how they went from initial idea to a successful launch.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:37] How does ideation occur for you in the dental medical device industry?
One of Premier Dental’s foundational pillars is the idea of being deeply connected. Our connections–with dentists, hygienists, universities, our industry landscape, and our competition–give us new ideas. We also get ideas from conversations with our advisory boards of dentists and hygienists and from talking to our customers in their offices.
[5:24] What’s an example of a product you created?
We recently launched a product called AeroPro, which is a cordless, hand-held device that hygienists use to polish teeth. Every quarter we look at industry data, which we purchase, to find out how we compare to our competitors. We noticed that one competitor was gaining market share in a product that is similar to a professional toothbrush head. We discovered that they had created a cordless handpiece that can only be paired with that head. We decided to learn from them and created a similar handpiece, the AeroPro. We got feedback from hygienists about what is important to them. We hadn’t made small equipment before, but we found the resources that we needed to develop this product.
[13:16] Have you used external challenges to get ideas or solve problems?
We look at competitors all the time to find areas that we could get into and do better in. At one point, we were interested in a competitor’s product that had just launched, but our head of research and development told us it wouldn’t work. A few years later, that product became number one. We took that as a challenge to take that idea and not just make it better but meet the same need in an entirely new way. Soon, our new product became number one.
[15:52] Have processes that foster the creation of new ideas always been part of your innovation culture?
In our culture, innovation has always been our lifeblood. But when I became CEO, we started creating processes to drive innovation. Our four pillars are Deeply Connected, Meaningful Innovation, Standard-setting Solutions, and Undeniably Proven. Our deep connections allow us to develop meaningful innovation, which becomes standard-setting solutions, making Premier undeniably proven.
[20:27] How did you take the AeroPro to market?
We piloted the product by putting it in the hands of our advisory board to work out the kinks. We then refined our messaging, developed a marketing and sales plan, and brought it to market.
[21:46] What are you doing after bringing the product to market?
We constantly refine messaging, marketing and sales strategies, and our work with distribution partners. We look at how we could improve market share. We also present our product to organizations that can recognize it with awards.
“If you wanna revolution, the only solution: evolve. You gotta evolve.” -from Gatorade Revolution commercial
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