Lean Innovation

[prpl_presto_player _builder_version=”4.14.7″ _module_preset=”default” theme_builder_area=”post_content” video_id=”52210″ hover_enabled=”0″ sticky_enabled=”0″][/prpl_presto_player]

Lean Innovation

Lean Innovation is a combination of principles practices from various ideas and frameworks, seeking to eliminate waste in the creation and delivery of new value for human beings.

Lean Innovation can use whatever practices are deemed a good fit in accordance with the definition above. If you use a specific implementation of Agile, while adhering to its principles such that you accomplish creating new value in an efficient way, more power to you. The same applies to principles originating with Lean Startup, Jobs-to-be-Done, Design Thinking, and a bunch of others I’ve haven’t mentioned and still more I’ve never heard of.

It may come as no surprise, but my preference is to combine practices based on what I perceive to be the strength of each framework. It turns out, upon consideration, that their strength is perhaps related to the driving force of each of the framework’s champions.

The strength of Jobs-to-be-Done is in “opportunity discovery.” Opportunity discovery is the first step in launching a business. Opportunity discovery is pre-customer discovery. It is the pre-customer, pre-ideation, pre-prototyping, pre-experimentation phase of business model development. It defines the area in which you’ll play, based on investigating the details of various human needs. It requires a ton of out-of-the-building primary research, a lot of empathy, and a lot of discipline to keep the focus on the needs people have and not on what you think you need to build.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect Ulwick’s passion is defining whole jobs, assessing mini-jobs, and determining the unmet needs they satisfy. Many of the companies he helps are likely confident with their ability to come up with ideas and building them. What they need his help with is discovering new opportunities where they can apply their driving force.

So how do you get to understand the whole job? Design Thinking is a great place to start. Getting to know your customers deeply—within a specific-problem context—will help you start describing the job, even if poorly at first. A diabetes-specific medical device company does not seek out endurance athletes with knee ailments to interview. A company’s driving force or explicit strategic objectives likely establish guardrails around “areas okay to play within.” The medical device company’s strategy might determine whether innovators focus on Type 2 diabetes vs. Type 1. Jobs-to-be-Done might help to figure out the opportunity is in exploring those who are at risk and aware of the risk, but not yet actually diagnosed.

Who are those people, what are they currently doing, and why? How do those items help prevent acquiring the disease? Just as with Design Thinking, you’re looking for patterns, groupings of patients


who behave in similar ways. You create personas based on those trying to accomplish the same job in similar ways.

A person who eats healthy, exercises regularly, and checks glucose daily but is prone to Type 2 diabetes because of genetics has a different job to do than an overweight individual who fears Type 2 diabetes, but lacks the willpower to eat better.

Different “whole jobs,” different personas, different solutions.

Jobs-to-be-Done provides you prioritized, unmet needs by market segment. Design Thinking gives you a window into specific human beings representing specific market segments, so you’ve already started customer discovery. Further, Design Thinking work helps you dive deeper into customer attributes and behaviors that help you ideate and test different solutions to those unmet needs.

What’s next? It turns out the strengths of Design Thinking and Lean Startup are also complementary.

Generally, startups approach markets with a “product-based” approach. In other words, they already “know” the solution will work for customers. Instead of focusing on the problem, startup founders (as well as corporate innovators), start with the “big idea.” Without Lean Startup, they just build the product. Successful startups have historically used a Customer Development-type approach to find the right customer for the product. Both the customer and the product are iterated upon until “product-market fit” (discussed below) is found.

In contrast, Design Thinking starts with solution-agnostic customer needs and desires that fit within a specific product context.

While Design Thinking and Lean Startup require interaction with users to study the fit of the solution, the impetus or driving force of those doing the work results in different approaches. Since Design Thinking is focused on user needs, practitioners seek to understand the customer and deploy a variety of techniques to do so. Lean Startup practitioners seek to understand whether the product is “viable”; in other words, do the users or customers care about the product enough to use it and pay for it?

In the end, based upon the “typical” way these methodologies are deployed, design thinkers understand the customer needs more deeply, while Lean Startupers are more focused on metrics and testing the entire business model. Again, this approach isn’t maybe what’s written in the books, but it is how they’re most often applied, and I suspect that is a result of who is naturally attracted to each. The Kellys are fundamentally product designers. Ries was a startup chief technical officer. Blank was a startup chief marketing officer.

The Customer Development process describes what needs to be figured out and how to construct interviews to learn the answers. That is the basis of the first version of this book. In practice, entrepreneurs often equip themselves with a laundry list of interview questions that is more akin to market research surveys or feature requirements gathering. This method is commonly known as “getting feedback,” which I argue is fairly worthless and poorly done. While these methods have their place and might prove beneficial at some point in developing a business, they’re not great for fundamentally understanding the viability of a product idea.

It’s fine to start with a product idea, but fundamentally, Lean Startup practitioners need to take a big step back and seek to understand users and customers better, focusing on their needs, desires, problems, and so on. Design Thinking practices are better at this than those defined by Customer Development. What you ultimately need to learn to build a scalable business is better defined by the latter.

Design Thinking people would benefit from taking a more rigorous approach to experimentation.

Rather than equating prototyping with running an experiment, practitioners might actually create a hypothesis, then design and run specific tests that measure user behavior.

Applying this to other aspects of a business model will mean practitioners will be testing business viability and not just product desirability.

Lean Startup is arguably better about data, too. The digital world provides the ability for us to track users’ interaction with products to determine whether they’re being used as expected to receive the value they were promised. Again, the startup world lends itself to good metrics, since investors must measure progress toward financial goals and not just the goals themselves.

Agile is the overarching structure of work that enables teams to deploy the right practice based on their current need, no matter

FIGURE 7                                                         what type, size, or phase of the company. Using sprints, standups,

and retrospectives, Agile organizes the balance between the work the

different frameworks demand.

So that is Lean Innovation: The integration of Design Thinking plus Lean Startup plus Agile.