For the past few months I have been conducting different kinds of workshops, conferences and sprints. Each time, based on a specific framework such as Design Thinking, Design Sprint and Lean Startup.
Usually, this is how it goes. A client asks me to introduce the concept of Design Thinking at a conference or to conduct a workshop using Lean Startup or Design Sprint methodology without really knowing which is what and how is it pertinent to use one of these methodologies. After a series of intervention, I have come to realise that there isn’t really one better methodology to use for a specific problem to solve. Even though this is how the innovation methodologies are packaged, and you can find a lot of articles explaining which one to use for a specific kind of problem, I personally think that a good way to work with these methodologies is actually to mix them all together. The most important thing, though, is to respect a certain order. Here is how it goes:
1- Set the right mindset: connect & define the problem
First, start by defining the problem. To do that you need to show empathy and connect with the user. This will help you define the problem based on real data collected through interviews, observation and field analysis. Once you do that, you are ready to solve the problem. These are the 2 first steps of the Design Thinking which I consider to be more more of a mindset then a methodology. As Tim Brown says:
Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and the requirements for business success
2- Get to it and solve the problem
Based on the definition of the problem, you now need to unpack. This first step of the Design Sprint methodology, which allows you to define who are the actual users and how are they dealing with the existing solution, what are there different actions and what are the blocking points. Once you have laid out these informations, you can start sketching your ideas without any constraints. At this point, it is important to let your creativity lead you without thinking about any budget restriction or technical feasibility. This is your no limit zone. After laying out all your solutions, you can then start prioritising and sorting your ideas and finally decide which solution(s) is/are the most relevant to address the raised problem.
Here comes the fun part. You can now start prototyping. Depending on your time frame, the prototype can be a video, an interactive pdf presentation or an app mockup designed with software like Invision. Keep in mind that the purpose is to build a first prototype and definitely not the final product. So get creative and use any tool you can think of, there are absolutely no limits as long as you build something that an end user can use to test the solution. As Jake Knapp said:
Prototype mindset. You can prototype anything. Prototypes are disposable. Build just enough to learn, but not more. The prototype must appear real
Once you have your prototype and users can test and experience it, one of the most important step of this methodology is to collect feedbacks from users, to help you validate or invalidate your solution, so you can make a decision on what to do next: elaborate, iterate again or simply kill it...
3- Eliminate uncertainty and launch the product
In case the solution is for internal use, for example it is only to be used by your company’s employees, once you have validated the user experience of your solution by letting a panel of user test it, you need to eliminate any uncertainty remaining by building an MVP (minimal viable product) that really works and let all the users validate the experience of the solution, collect feedbacks again and make it better until you have a final validation and a solution that really works.
On another hand, if the solution is related to the development or the launching of a new product, you will need to eliminate uncertainty by validating the product-market-fit. To do that, you need to lay down your ideas using the Lean Canvas that will help you quickly formulate possible business models, product launches and campaigns variations. As Eric Ries says:
The question is not "Can this product be built?" Instead, the questions are "Should this product be built?" and "Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?
To answer these questions, the Lean Canvas is a visual guide of your solution’s relevance. It allows you to determine your customers segments as well as the early adopters, your unfair advantage that differentiates you from your existing competitors, your unique value proposition which is the reason a prospect should buy from you and the channels you will use to communicate on your solution. Of course you also have the financial part where you need to define your key metrics, your cost structure and your revenue stream.
Once your Lean canvas is ready, take a look at your first prototype, work on it again if you realise that your first solution is not appropriate anymore based on your financial informations. For instance, you might have built a perfect prototype that was validated by the user, but it doesn't mean that your monetising plan fits the market. If you realise that, work on your solution again, but if you are sure of your hypotheses and your business model, build your MVP and take it to market to test it. You will then be able to validate your product and based on the feedbacks, take it to the next level or take the time to adjust it for a perfect product-market fit.
Now that you have the key elements of the different methodologies, there is one last thing that is key to succeeding in problem solving. You need to mobilize the right team by defining the most relevant business experts. For example, if you are working on internal crisis management, you need to select profile such as crisis managers and heads of security as well as IT managers to insure the feasibility of the solution. This way, at the end of the workshop, the designed solutions will be realistic and precise.
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