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Lean Design (Design Thinking + Lean Startup)

Today we want to talk about a new work methodology. We are speaking about the Lean Design, although more than a methodology, it is the fusion of two. On one hand, the Design Thinking, which we expect you already know :), and on the other hand, the Lean Startup… What is the Lean Startup about?, you might ask.

This methodology was born in 2008 in Silicon Valley and created by Eric Ries after his experience working in several startups across the US. Although, this new method is quite new, it got very quickly spread due the Startup phenomenon rising. Lean Startup is mostly used, during the launching stages of a company, a product or a service and its main features are the resource optimization, the flexibility before changes and the continuous learning through product iterations and testings with the target client.

In a society like ours, where the changes occur more and more often, a company has to be flexible and adaptable to those changes without the need of a financial investment or a major infrastructure change. That is why Lean Startup works very well with business models where the uncertainty and the sudden changes are rather common.

But, like everything, this is not a magic wand you can use to succeed whenever you want, it is necessary to know how to use it in an intelligent and constant manner, and what is more important, you have to create a team able to adapt to the previously mentioned features.

And you probably will say… What does it have to do with the Design Thinking? Well, much more than it might seem, they share many characteristics:

  • Both have a human centered approach, although in different moments. The Design Thinking, which comes from the social anthropology, gathers the information during the initial process of the creation of a product or service, identifying the user’s needs and creating new proposals of value to be solved. On the other hand, Lean Startup, takes interaction with the users during a more advanced stage, focusing on analyzing who is the target client and how to reach them.
  • The big importance and error value. The key element in both methodologies is the constant development, the often called try and fail, the evolution, the improvement… A mistake is no longer something negative, now a fail is a source of information from which to learn in order to improve and develop your product or service. Both methodologies put that in value, while the Design Thinking speaks about prototypes, the Lean Startup talks about MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
  • Agile methodologies. At first glance, maybe the idea and the team look like the most important things of a project, but timing is a key factor when launching a product, even more important becomes when there is technology involved, that is why we need methodologies that allow us to obtain good results in a short period of time.

Lean Design english

Nevertheless, both methodologies also have different aspects, which make them very complementary. Lean Startup allows us to do a very quick and agile analysis of a company in a global level and works very well when developing a business model, product or service we have an already defined, and we want to bring it into the market, make it long term self sustainable and most importantly, scalable, that means we make the profit grow exponentially without making the fixed costs and company structure bigger.

In contrast, the Design Thinking, focuses on the user and problem analysis or the existent need, from that point and with creativity techniques and teamwork, value proposals are developed until reaching the product or service definition. This deep user study makes the Design Thinking go beyond the business world and it is also applied in education, health, social and many other fields.

Nowadays there are companies that are merging both methodologies in what is called Lean Design. That is an idea we think is very appropriate and we are currently using in our projects because we believe both methodologies are very complementary. All the new tools that allow us to improve our projects’ results should be used in our favor and more importantly, in our clients’ favor.

So, as an anecdote that complements the post, in 2014 there was a Hang Out call moderated by Google between Tim Brown (IDEO‘s CEO and main Design Thinking promoter) and Eric Ries, where they discussed about the methodologies and how they complement each other.

1 Response

  1. Great to find an article about a topic that I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few months.
    Design thinking and Lean startup both have many similarities an some differences as you said. Other differences to add are:

    Lean approach is about testing and validating hypotheses in a iterative way. The process involves the team in the research process by asking them to get out of the building and talk directly with the target audience.
    It’s focused in validating if the combination of the customer, the need and the proposed solution make sense and add a real desirable benefit for the target audience.

    Design thinking is focused on co-creating solutions in a collaborative way by a deep understanding of the problem and all its context and ecosystem.
    It motivates lateral thinking and creativity without judging ideas,
    It helps to break silos and improves communications within the organisation.
    It also uses visual artefacts as a way to translate concepts in a something that everybody could understand.

    Both used in combination become a powerful tool to develop more people-centric approach solutions, solving real needs that delivers true value and connects with people. It also develops skills in your team to improve their understanding, their empathy, their creativity and develop a shared vision followed by a clear purpose, which is the key ingredient for motivation and engagement.

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