Research & Design Strategy

How to give Design a seat at the Lean Startup table

My colleague Roshelle Ritzenthaler and I recently presented at South by Southwest on “How to Give Design a Seat at the Lean Startup Table.” There was a line around the corner for our talk, which tells me this is a topic on a lot of designers' minds.

If you’re familiar with the two methodologies (Design Thinking and Lean Startup) as they relate to product or service development, then you know they don’t seem to have much in common on the surface. However, if you take a deeper look, you’ll find there are some best practices that build upon the common ground and tensions that are inherent to both methodologies.

First, let’s look at the common ground between the Design and Lean Startup methodologies and then where there is some tension before revealing five best practices that integrate the best of both worlds.

Both Design and Lean Startup practitioners agree on some important points:

  • Get out of the building. Talk to customers. Insight and innovation won’t happen sitting at your desk.
  • Acknowledge and manage uncertainty. We live in a world of extreme uncertainty. The world is always changing so we need to build that into the approach.
  • Iterate in the development. The process should be very iterative – adjusting the approach, tools and next steps as we learn more.
  • Prototype early and often. Make it real as quickly as you can.
Friction arises in part because Design is more rooted in exploration while Lean Startup is more rooted in experimentation

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