The story of a refrigerator, or how we saved hundreds of lives
Today I will tell you the story of a refrigerator. Or should I say when we saved one life! Perhaps it was a couple of hundred lives! Or maybe, we helped out a whole community? I will let you be the judge of that!
About three years ago, I worked as a consultant doing Product Discovery and Agile Inception activities for an Internet Of Things local company in Rosario.
We were making a sensor device that measures the temperature inside refrigerators and sends you alerts over GPRS Internet, mainly for the agro-industrial and supermarket sectors.
One morning, our CEO got a call from a friend that told him in a small town south of Rosario they had a problem at their local SAMCO; that’s a small medical center. Their vaccines refrigerator was acting up. We immediately thought we could install our sensors to control the vaccines’ temperature so the town wouldn’t waste them.
At that moment, we didn’t install our sensors in medicine-related facilities. Still, we listened to their ask for help and decided to take a look. However, when we got there, we found their vaccines refrigerator was in a horrible shape altogether. We would need to find a way to replace it.
And so we did it! We reached out to a local company that makes refrigerators, and we told them about this town situation. We said to them this might be an opportunity for both companies! We encouraged them to make a prototype for this town’s SAMCO. They would provide the new vaccine refrigerator, and we would give them the new sensors. We put all of these together for free.
And we said, if this works, we can make a Business Case to the Province to monitor vaccines’ temperature in every town remotely. We wanted them to envision the impact that this collaborative effort would have on the community and their own business.
Luckily, the refrigerator company said yes to our proposal. After some joint work, we shipped the new SMART refrigerator to that town’s medical center. After we set it up, the prototype worked very well!
We were making the Business Case for the Province when “it” hit us, the business value had turned into life-giving value. The Business Value of what we just had done wasn’t in preserving the vaccines. The Business Value wasn’t in the box, saving money because you didn’t waste medical supplies. The value was outside.
Every time we helped a child receive a vaccine, we knew it was good and properly preserved. The Business Value was in the lives we protected in the community. The Business Value was in the change of behavior we could make in the town. We could encourage them to trust their medical center and get the vaccines they were supposed to.
Merely by listening to a friend’s request, a possible client, we discovered we could do a significant amount of good for our communities and make a living at the same time!
Also, we were able to shift our mindset from outputs to outcomes and a bit more. You see, our production was simply the sensors, nothing to them, right? But those little sensors took care of lots of valuable things, not only inside refrigerators but outside, the human beings consuming what the refrigerators kept. We call that outcome in Product Management.
We went one step further here, though. Can you guess it? We made a social impact when we changed the town’s behavior to restore their trust in their vaccines refrigerator.
That level of impact has only happened to me once in fifteen years of professional work. It was an incredible feeling when I realized I was working for a company with a purpose.
So what do you think? How many lives have we saved?