Lean Innovating is a draft concept of workflow for transforming ideas into implementable innovations, created as a result of my experience as a Product Team Leader.
It is a practical implementation of Lean Startup methodology, also influenced by: Value Proposition Design, How To Measure Anything and inspiring Innovation & Complexity classes taught by Gunjan Bhardwaj at the University of Pforzheim.
The problem nowadays is not to create perfect products with thousands of breath-taking features. It is not to create things in time and budget. The biggest problem is to create things that people really want to use with the minimal waste of time and money.
The worst thing you can do is keeping your ideas in the icebox. People get frustrated because they believe their ideas can bring huge value but they never get enough attention from management or product team.
The sad truth is: most of the ideas work only on the paper. Innovations, which will significantly boost your conversions or generate strong positive signal among your users are very rare.
The point is — you cannot find a gem without processing huge amount of ideas.
Lean Innovating aims at using minimal resources to identify what’s worth and what’s not worth pursuing.
Think about Lean Innovating as of engine of growth for your company. It makes your company move faster, powered by improvement ideas and real feedback from users.
Depending on the size and maturity of the organization, Lean Innovating can be used as a base framework for:
- complete management of an early-stage startup,
- innovative teams in well-established companies creating new products,
- product teams incrementally improving existing products.
To turn ideas into innovations you need a process. You can imagine it as a funnel with two major dimensions:
- Innovation Capacity — how many different ideas you can test at a time.
- Time To Innovation — how long does it take to test an idea.
An effective process will maximise Innovation Capacity and minimise Time To Innovation.
Each iteration of Lean Innovating involves three steps:
- Direction Stage — where you analyse key metrics, process learnings from previous iteration and define challenges.
- Ideation Stage— where you come up with solutions (ideas) to the challenges and turn them into testable hypotheses.
- Development Stage— where you walk each idea through build — measure — learn loop (using Scrum or Kanban): you create MVP, ship it to the users and measure their response.
After completing Stage III you come back to the Stage I, analyse the progress against the goal and adjust accordingly. During each iteration you will probably process several ideas.
The challenge on operational level is to increase number of ideas processed per iteration and decrease its time.
Below you can find the fundamental considerations behind Lean Innovating.
Just as lean manufacturing, Lean Innovating is all about eliminating waste. Keeping your ideas in stock without knowing their real value is certainly wrong because it leads to misallocation of resources. What if one of them can boost your conversion twofolds or create new channel for growth? You must reformulate your ideas into testable hypotheses and validate as soon as possible.
Measurement supports well-informed decisions. If something can be observed in any way at all, it means that it can also be expressed as a number. It is not about getting perfect information but about reducing uncertainty, which can be often achieved even with rough approximation. Keep measuring everything that is relevant to decision making — hypotheses, outcome, baseline for your experiments and so on.
Brilliant ideas can be generated by anyone — inside or outside your company. Keep listening and encourage everybody to post their ideas. Praise their creators as their concepts are positively verified.
The biggest risk of operating under extremely uncertainty is not execution. It is spending time and money in a product that nobody wants or missing an opportunity for huge growth acceleration. That’s why the main goal ahead of you is to keep learning about your users — who are thy, what are their pains and what really can solve their problems. And as the environment is changing rapidly and your resources are limited — you must make sure that this learning happens really fast and has impact on your decisions.
Fail, Learn, Adjust
Making errors is an integral part of learning. It is positive as long as you learn from it something relevant and you adjust quickly. Imagine you touch something extremely hot and get feedback five minutes later when your hand is completely burnt. Feedback loop must be quick, enable learning and lead to better decisions.
Get out of the building
Knowledge is not in your office. Initial research, brainstorming and hypotheses formulation is a good start. But to validate your ideas you must turn them into MVPs and put in front of your users. In most cases it is about watching how they behave — not what they think. Be prepared for a fact that most of your ideas will not survive first meeting with the customer.