What do Design Thinking and The Lean Startup Have in Common?

by Feb 26, 2014

There are significant global bubbles around Design Thinking and The Lean Startup. We are fans of both - they definitely add value to the innovation armoury of organisations large and small. For some time now we have been looking the intersection of these methodologies, and what we can learn. The focus on the user, on doing, on testing, on retesting, on observations, are all common.

So I was very interested to read this post in The Wall Street Journal from Paolo Lorenzoni. Paolo is a Project Leader at IDEO, the originator of the Design Thinking movement. Paolo claims that the intersection is on:

- Customer focus: the notion of being user-centered lives at the heart of design, while the lean startup revolves around the goal of establishing product-market fit.

- Bias toward build: design relies heavily on building prototypes to elicit user reaction while lean startup trumpets the idea of a minimum viable product (MVP) to do the same.

- Embrace failure: design prescribes that we need to fail fast to succeed sooner, while lean startup channels activity toward a “persist, pivot or kill” decision point.

He continues:

- What design thinking offers to a lean startup: Many lean startup practitioners have a tendency to treat everything as “pivotable.” This can be dangerous because it turns lean startup into a mechanistic trial and error exercise. The lack of intent makes it easy to get lost. To avoid this fate, it’s helpful to anchor lean techniques around an observed human need, which is supplied by design thinking. You never want to lose sight of the need you’re designing for as you undertake the lean startup.

- What the lean startup offers to design thinking: Lean startup methodology helps with discovery of the market opportunity that lives around the observed need. Lean startup’s emphasis on articulating hypotheses and testing them at scale, in the wild, often without users and stakeholders knowing they’re participating in a test, is helpful in this regard. Meanwhile, the rigorous measurement that accompanies lean startups plays a critical role in winning permission from investors and project sponsors to pursue the market opportunities we’re passionate about.

At The Strategy Group we have been looking at what happens if we add Disruptive Innovation into the mix? Interesting to think about the intersection now.....

Jeffrey Tobias

About Jeffrey Tobias

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well-known startups.

View All Posts

Managing Director, The Strategy Group

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well known startups. Jeffrey’s corporate background includes leading global innovation strategy at Cisco, working with large corporates such as Adobe, Westpac, Telstra, Woolworths, and Perpetual.

    Need help to get your business to the next level?

    More related articles on innovation

    Share This