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Innovation

Need for speed: Approaches to picking up the pace of development

October 12, 2016

Innovation is risky business. It is expensive and time consuming. The faster you move, the longer you can survive.

So we’re told to go faster – not just in product development, but with everything. And now there are all these ‘new’ methodologies and tools out there that are supposed to help us go fast. And those methodologies and tools are captured in so many books, videos and blogs (like this one!) that it’s almost impossible to keep track.

Lean Startup. Design Thinking. Design Sprints. Agile. How are we supposed to move faster if we need to spend days and months reading and evaluating methods? (Click here for descriptions and links to some good resources for more information.)

Even if you have time to dig deep into all of these methodologies, it can be hard to keep them straight – especially since they are not mutually exclusive from one another:

Lean Startup draws inspiration from the scientific method, Lean Manufacturing and Agile Development. Agile is an iterative approach that breaks development down into one- to two-week sprints. Sprints is the name of the book that Google just published. Sprints are like bite-sized pieces of Design Thinking – an iterative approach to innovation that relies heavily on prototypes to test ideas and learn. These prototypes are a lot like the MVPs of Lean Startup.

Whew.

The good news, though, is that if you dig into each of these methodologies you’ll find they have a few core principles in common. These principles are at the heart of enabling speed:

Break down problems into smaller pieces
Instead of trying to bite off everything at once they tackle problems in bits, but in different ways. This can make things more manageable overall (think, Agile), but it also allows for a better understanding of what a “problem” is (in the case of Design Thinking, especially) or it allows red flags to be seen and addressed sooner than later (Lean Startup, Sprints).

Keep focus on the end-user
Whether it be a focus on a “customer” or a “human,” the end-user is at the heart of the process and decisions. Agile prioritizes customers in the first principle of the “Agile Manifesto.” Design Thinking is deeply empathetic, practicing “human-centered design.”

Lead with diverse and empowered teams
Going faster means having the right people in the room and empowering them to make decisions. While they all do this, Google’s Design Sprint methodology puts this front and center. The Sprint approach is prescriptive with regards to team size (seven people is ideal) and composition and calls for a “decider” to be dedicated to the Sprint.

Every organization and every project demands rigorous pre-work to think about what approach make sense (and it’s probably more than one).

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