We’re all familiar with bedside manner. A doctor comes in and consults upon a patient’s proper course of action to improve health outcomes. Let’s say they (not you, of course) berate their patient or lack conviction in their delivery. They don’t respect that human’s ability to think for themselves, or even their general humanity. They diminish the patient’s role or leave unclear instructions. How much less likely will the care team, and the cared for, achieve their desired outcome?
There’s so much that goes into patient compliance far beyond the quality of information provided, or even the objective effectiveness of treatment. That comes down to, succinctly: getting buy-in.
At their core, successful products get stakeholder buy-in. However, bringing a product to market requires navigating a complex and complicated series of environmental structures to drag it over the finish line and flourish in the real world.
This environment is hierarchical and highly regulated. Stakeholders include groups like other business leaders, compliance officers, consultants, payers, patients and their families. Their availability shifts depending on the system, hospital, region or specialty. They may be absent, or hard to reach.
Further complicating matters, this environment is high stress: it’s emotionally charged, technically complicated, highly variable and with literal life-and-death outcomes. To alleviate the stress and pain points of the marketplace, it’s vital for any new product or service to win at both the functional and the emotional level.
Suppose we envision a chart, with an x-axis denoting “functional needs” and a y-axis indicating “emotional needs.” From there, we can imagine a four-quadrant grid:

Products that don’t address functional needs or emotional needs are dead on arrival.
Products that don’t address functional needs but satisfy emotional needs. They suffer from poor design and therefore aren’t valuable or usable.
Products that address functional needs but don’t satisfy emotional needs. They suffer from poor or lacking implementation and are hard for users to trust.
Products that address functional needs and satisfy emotional needs and receive widespread acclaim and adoption.

Emotional needs aren’t often considered. This explains why some good products flop, yet when product developers strategically approach emotional needs, it can get the ball rolling on implementation. Here, we’ll address those concerns.
According to Daniel Shapiro in Negotiating the Nonnegotiable, we can solve for emotional concerns in five areas.
AppreciationCultivating appreciation in product development ensures everyone feels heard, understood and valued. Present and build your product in ways in which stakeholders perceive a recognition in the merit of what (and how) they think, feel and do. Seek first to understand and respect all the gatekeepers and users along the way.
AutonomyGranting autonomy means allowing others the freedom to make their own decisions. By giving stakeholders and users a say in your product development process, or at the bare minimum keeping them informed, they’ll feel they have the ability to do it their way or make it their own within the parameters dictated by the development environment.
AffiliationIncluding, connecting with, and treating your stakeholders as allies generates affiliation for you and your product. It’s important to position your product as working for the user, and not as an additional thing to be done for someone else. You demonstrate your leadership through how well your innovation serves their needs.
StatusEveryone loves to feel important. When you develop products and consult with stakeholders and users during the development process, you must acknowledge their expertise and reflect that in the design of your product. People love to feel catered to, but most importantly, they love to feel as though you’ve gone through the extra effort of giving them the very best you can offer, time after time.
RoleAmbiguity breeds confusion and raises both questions and the barrier to entry. However, when people feel fulfilled and satisfied in the role they’re playing and by delineating sufficient clarity around the role of the user, product and tech team, everyone can act accordingly. Even better, by making each role desirable and fulfilling, everyone has a vested interest in seeing development through.
Let’s go back to the doctor again. There’s an effective treatment plan lined up. The doctor’s warm, credible and reassuring. They tell their patients precisely what to expect. None of this addresses functional value, yet all of these aspects make the user feel less anxious and skeptical. This adds emotional value and increases the likelihood of success. If satisfying emotional needs allows one doctor to improve the life of one patient, imagine what a winning product can do for millions of them.
Photo: Khanisorn Chaokla, Getty Images

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