Design Thinking & Lean Startup Used In Isolation are Insufficient

November 23rd, 2017

Erin Faulk and Renee Murphy from The Garage Group led a recent session at the Day of Innovation at Butler University in Indianapolis highlighting three traps corporate leaders often fall into when they learn and scale a single methodology and force-fit all challenges to flow through this new way of thinking. Here’s a quick recap:

From our experience, one of the tension points we consistently see is teams double down on efficiency – consistently leaning in on a single methodology, scaling that methodology throughout the organization, and aiming to tackle all challenges through that lens. Sometimes it’s doubling down on Design Thinking to drive empathy and consumer focus, or using Lean Startup approaches to test early-stage ideas. Leveraging a single method approach fails to consider the complexity of solving early stage, uncertain opportunities. Methods like Design Thinking and Lean Startup are critical to solving big challenges, they’re just insufficient on their own.

In situations where teams prioritize single-method over multi-method, we consistently see the following three traps:

  1. DEFINING WITHOUT HUSTLE TO ADD VALUE In this scenario, teams can spend a great deal of time and resources immersed in the problem and building context, but struggle to effectively transition to framing up the clear Job to be Done that they’re solving for. For example, deep diving into Design Thinking and Empathy without moving into application stalls both the team and ability to impact the business. Especially challenging for Insights functions, it’s important to define the problem, then move with urgency to action solutions.
  2. NEW PROBLEM, SAME POSSIBILITIES In this scenario, teams do a good job framing up what they’re solving for, but they fall into the trap of solving the new problem through current possibilities or the predominant, familiar business model. Because of this, they fail to see new ways they could address the problem. Analogs (how the problem you’re attempting to solve has been solved in other contexts) and Tools like Business Model Canvases complement Front-End-of-Innovation research to help give teams a vision beyond their current context.
  3. HOLISTIC SOLUTION DEVELOPMENT WITHOUT A COMPASS  In this scenario, teams excitedly jump into making stuff. They build an entirely new product or an internal system, but aren’t exactly sure of the pain they’re solving for and why they’re solving it. And, when their idea hits the real world with lackluster results, they struggle to make meaningful improvements because they weren’t clear on the consumer-driven problem(s) they were setting out to solve in the first place. This is the quintessential new-tech-driven idea, where teams haven’t done the work to see if that tech is even needed.

As you move forward, stop heroing the holy grail method and the traps that come with it, and give your team a shot at truly adding value in the face of uncertainty. If you’re interested in pushing beyond a single method mindset, check out this case story on how we helped a F100 Financial Services Company take a multi-method approach to solving some of their toughest innovation and growth challenges.

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