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Product Design

Lean and Design Thinking for Startups

By: Tallwave

Many startups are familiar with lean principles popularized by Eric Ries and a host of others. For example, “MVP” (Minimal Viable Product) and “testing hypothesis” are just two of the many terms common in the startup world.

At Shelvspace, we utilize these principles to ensure we are always building the right product, for the right customer, at the lowest possible cost. Key lean directives include having clear metrics, a testing system that ensures focus is always directed on the most critical areas of the business, and a structured way to adapt quickly to changes in assumptions.

While I applaud most lean theories, an aspect of lean thinking that seems limiting is the idea that you build a single MVP, get it to market and then iterate your way to success. Some of my colleagues in Silicon Valley even have this approach with their funding. For example, they might say, “we have $1M and with our current burn rate, we have approx. 20 two-week development cycles to ‘get it right.’” That’s great if you make it but isn’t there a cheaper and less risky way to ensure you get it right BEFORE you spend all that money?

Design thinking is the key to a better way. For years, creative firms and designers have used principles of design thinking to solve difficult problems and innovate. Design thinking relies on user-centered discovery and solutions-oriented problem solving. Entrepreneurs have engaged in this kind of thinking for years but haven’t given it a name. They think they are just “following their gut” or have “great instincts”.

There is one secret of design thinking that can be a gamechanger for early stage founders. This approach will allow you to explore multiple solutions at the same time, often without having to build them.

I encourage everyone to look more into core design thinking practices. To begin with, try the following...

If you have a product concept you plan to build, have your team sketch out six different variations of it.

Next, put those six different designs in front of six different target customers. Don’t say a word; ask them what they think. They will expose ideas or problems you never considered. Repeat this process until you get a majority of customers “reaching” for the same solution. You’ll know when you’ve hit the sweet spot when you hear them say, “If you build that, I would absolutely pay for it”.

What you’ll find in this user and design driven practice is that you do not need $1M dollars to learn if your product is viable. You can actually get much much closer to the right answer before you start to build it. Not only do you increase your odds of a successful product, you also increase your chances of producing gamechanging innovation that others, including yourself, have yet to discover.

Please reach out for more info or if you have design thinking tips you’d like to share from your startup.

Written by Tallwave

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