design thinking and lean

design thinking is how we explore and solve problems; lean is our framework for testing our beliefs and learning our way to the right outcomes, and agile is how we adapt to changing conditions with software. design thinking is simply how we explore those problems and solutions. it’s fundamentally about exploring uncertainty, making decisions by experimenting and learning, and empowering people who are closest to the work to decide how best to achieve desired outcomes. in conditions of high uncertainty, agile offers ways to build software that is dynamic and can adapt to change. the answer is “and”, not “or”: it’s design thinking, lean, and agile.

this is how product teams can align to purpose, explore uncertainty, and learn their way to achieving desired outcomes. it gives some structure for finding the right metrics, and makes it easy to communicate to others. many solutions fail because they solve no meaningful problem, and we tend to fall in love with our ideas and let our biases get the better of us. learning is a team sport, and collaboration is key if we’re going to find our way to the place we want to be. he is also the author of understanding design thinking, lean, and agile (o’reilly, 2017), which is available for free.

many fall victim to the law of the instrument bias and after attending a one day design thinking workshop, load all of their eggs into that one basket, maintaining a firm belief that design thinking is the silver bullet solution for their innovation woes, but as i detailed in a previous blog post, design thinking is only one step in the process. the lean startup is used to rapidly experiment across problem, solution, customer segment, distribution channels, marketing channels, revenue models, cost structures, messaging and so on in order to complete the puzzle that underpins any idea for as michael dell put it, ideas are a commodity, execution of them is not.

to simplify, design thinking helps us come up with better ideas, the lean startup helps us turn those ideas into business models that work and agile helps us deliver the product to market in a fast, incremental way so that we get ongoing feedback, adapt and deliver precisely what the customer wants. by combining design thinking, the lean startup and agile, you are far more likely to not only come up with better ideas but turn those ideas into viable money makers and deliver them in a way that creates immediate value for customers, doesn’t result in cost and schedule blowouts – synonymous with innovation at large companies – and give your employees the opportunity to partake in more rewarding and fulfilling work. steve glaveski is the co-founder of collective campus, author of time rich, employee to entrepreneur and host of the future squared podcast.

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