Waging Evolution: 6 Tips for Applying Design Thinking & Lean in Your Organization

I wrote these tips while I was prepping for a talk at the Silicon Valley Product Management Association. Most of my talks have been for folks doing startup’s, but the attendees here were product managers desiring to innovate within their organization, and many of those organizations are established technology companies.

A few of the attendees sent me questions in advance- thanks again. Almost all the questions orbited around what I call ‘the big void’ between theory and practice.

Here’s one set of questions that I particularly liked:

1. Is this [Design Thinking] by now a well known and well understood methodology? If not why not? It has been around for a long time. I was using it before I knew what it was called. Why has it not become the standard?
2. What is the best way to define and describe when talking to Senior executives and colleagues?
3. There is a perception that the Design Thinking process is:
a. Time consuming (and “We don’t have time”)
b. Expensive (and “We don’t have money to spend on this!”)
c. Not realistic – too academic
d. Does not apply to the design of enterprise applications

Most of the questions, like these, had elements of ‘Does this apply to me?’ and ‘How do I start’. It’s with this in mind that I put together tips the follow.

The 6 Tips

Go Design Thinking, LeanStart tomorrow. I can’t think of many ideas that are more likely to help a company, not to mention an individual career.

There are a number of great ways to get started- one is a Template I’ve put online along with some explanatory material.

Show Design Thinking, LeanThe ideas we’re talking about are highly empirical- it’s all about their actual practice and application. Write up a few personas or user stories. Formulate an assumption set for your next meeting. I think you’re likely to be pleased with the results.

Focus on Design Thinking, LeanThere is a lot you could potentially do and few us get to finish everything we’d like to do professionally. Start by finding something you think you can tackle that will have an observable impact and focus on that.

Broadcast Design Thinking, LeanThe best way to introduce these new techniques is on an incremental, success-based, everyday basis. Make sure that as you’re showing, your colleagues and collaborators can find your work. Keep what you’re doing on Google Doc’s, a shared drive, whatever you use to share and collaborate- even if it’s not perfect yet.

Make-Yourself-Agile-v3The ideas in the agile manifesto  are simple and powerful. Try organizing your own work around them- agile’s increasingly popular outside the core engineering function. Use stories, formulate iterations. One easy place to start and something I do personally is a Daily Do email that draws on agile’s daily standup technique.

Awesome LeanFinally, make yourself awesome; focus on that and everything else will ultimately fall into place.
I like this quote from Albert Camus and I think it applies well here: ‘Don’t wait for the late judgment- it takes place every day.’ If you’re in B2C/consumer, you’ve probably at least been exposed to these ideas and I hope this post helps with your practice of them. If you’re in B2B/enterprise (as I am), you’re in an even better position to put these into practice since you have so many product audiences and you’re so adjacent to actual customers.

Talk back

What do you think? I’d love to hear thoughts from the community.

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