The lean methodology has an embedded structure that helps you test hypotheses quickly at minimal cost. But the question is, how to generate your hypothesis? It isn’t quite easy to discover the needs of customers if you haven’t identified their “pain points” by being in their shoes. This is where design thinking comes in. It provides you with the framework to do that.
Stefanos Zenios, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Stanford GSB Investment Group of Santa Barbara gives a compelling description, “For example, in design thinking you develop a prototype that you use to get feedback, that’s very qualitative and lean startup makes it more rigorous, so you don’t end up convincing yourself that the feedback is positive feedback.”
Design Sprints, developed by Google Ventures, represents the bridge between lean product management and design thinking. It has a framework through which an idea can be generated and solutions provided by the end of the week. According to Jake Knapp, author of the book, SPRINT: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, “the sprint is GV’s unique five-day process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers. It’s a ‘greatest hits’ of business strategy, innovation, behavioral science, design, and more, packaged into a step-by-step process that any team can use.”
Lean Product Management
Lean product management and design thinking are some of the most innovative approaches to launching a product in the startup world today. In the language of entrepreneurial incubation, design thinking refers to a designer’s approach to creating products; while lean product management tilts heavily towards an engineering-based perspective. While the question is not which approach is the most effective, product managers are often faced with the challenge of having to decide the strategy to adopt at different stages of the product development life-cycle.
Design Thinking Strategy
Believed to have been developed in the late 90s, design thinking is associated with processes aimed at developing customer-centered products that evolve from getting to know customer’ needs through a form of “participatory research” and then working to provide innovative solutions to those needs.
It emphasizes spending extensive time with potential customers in communities in order to discover their “pain points” so as to become driven by empathy to provide innovative solutions to their identified problems. As such, what you have in design thinking is a value proposition with an emotional attachment; which means you are not only concerned about the product meeting customer needs, but you also want to know how they’ll feel using the product. This drive, therefore, ensures that your customers don’t just get a value for their money from your product but are also emotionally satisfied with it.
The lean model mostly adopts a quantitative evaluation technique to test hypotheses when conducting research with the target customers. It emphasizes using “actionable metrics” to evaluate the effectiveness of processes and solutions developed by providing useful analysis on key performance indicators (KPIs). Design thinking, on the other hand, adopts a qualitative approach to research. It emphasizes participation with potential customers in the study in order to experience the emotional attachment they would have towards the product.
Lean product development methodology and design thinking have traditionally created not just disruptive products, but also products loved by customers. With the linking of the two models comes design sprints which are one of the latest frontiers in the world of entrepreneurial incubation.