Seizing the Damocles Sword of Parkinson’s Disease: the Emotional Core of Innovation

I recently accompanied my father to Solothurn, Switzerland for a neurosurgical operation to treat his Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The surgery has led to an incredible, life-enhancing outcome for Dad. However, by meeting the neurosurgeons and learning more about their little-known but world-leading work, I’ve learned the power of human emotion in driving groundbreaking innovation.

The Damocles Sword of Parkinson’s Disease

Imagine constantly feeling like you’re trapped inside your own body. A withering body. Exhausted from years of uncontrollable tremors and rigid, sore, aching muscles. Lifting a fork to your mouth is such an effort, you consider giving up after each bite of food. Food that you can no longer smell or taste. Your partner has now become your full-time carer.  Feeding, dressing and catering to your every need. This was a small vignette into the daily life of my father who, at 63 years of age, suffers from Parkinson’s Disease.

But that was 5 days ago. Today, just days after a pallidothalamic tractotomy on his brain, Dad is regaining his motor and sensory functions. He can now lift a fork with ease, taste and smell his food! My Dad suffered for 12 years with a disease that was slowly breaking his body down and destroying the very essence of who he is: a keen sportsman; ever-loving husband and father; and, highly successful business person. It’s impossible to describe the joy I’ve experienced observing his self-rediscovery since the operation.

The Customer Experience & Emotion

So what does this have to do with business?

Dad’s procedure had its genesis in the recognition of the role emotional stress can play in the development of Parkinson’s.

This experience suggests that understanding the emotion behind a patient’s disease or a customer’s problem, reveals opportunities to resolve the core issue or problem. The little-known team of neurosurgeons in Solothurn is just one incredible example of the power of emotion in driving innovation. They challenged established wisdom to create a therapy that doesn’t just improve symptoms. It also removes the fear PD patients have of further deterioration (the Damocles sword).

Whether undertaking customer journey mapping or co-designing for innovation, understanding the whole customer and their emotional experiences is essential. Through this knowledge the opportunities to innovate and improve customer experience arise.

Unfortunately, this remarkable treatment for Parkinson’s Disease is not available to all PD sufferers.  Why not?

Three reasons:

  1. Availability. MRI-guided focused ultrasound technology is relatively new and only a small handful of neurosurgeons have used it to perform the procedure Dad underwent.
  2. Access. The particular procedure is offered in limited locations globally.
  3. Price. Public health systems and private health insurance do not fund the procedure. The exception is Switzerland, where the procedure is fully funded by the country’s basic health and accident insurance.

The Opportunity of Emotion

The lessons from Solothurn for business?

  1. Understand the whole customer and the emotions at the pain points in their journey with your organisation.
  2. Assuming your goal is to create products and services for a market niche, ensure it is both accessible and affordable.
  3. Customer-centred design is the key to innovation.

Is your organisation fully understanding the emotional foundation of the problems faced by your older customers? Speak to Three Sisters Group today for deep customer insight and the opportunity to transform your customer experience.

 

Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash

 

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