Highly innovative teams move across different innovation processes as their venture evolves. Here are some key frameworks and processes we recommend.
Early on in your venture, your focus is to learn as much as possible. What problem you are really solving, what exactly customers value about your product, how much they value it, how you might deliver it and countless other things. You likely come to start a new business because you already have some answers to some of the questions and some unique insights that got you excited enough to go on this journey.
Our first guesses to all of these are almost certainly wrong, so the job of the entrepreneur in the early stages is to form these questions and get answers to as many of them as possible. Only that will shape what the business is and what it actually does. Otherwise, you’re just following the 80%+ of startups in building something nobody wants.
What is the sign that shows that we’ve learned enough? A strong product-market fit and organic growth that comes with it. Without product market fit, you don’t have a business.
Good leaders recognise that no one tool or trick will take them all the way to success. Instead, there are tens of proven processes that make innovation happen. We also don’t need to be experts in all these tools to get great value from them. Even dipping your toes in those processes at the right moment will make an exceptional difference to your business and put you ahead of everyone else.
To help in navigating the landscape of disruption and innovation, we've compiled a map that will help you pick the right tool for the problem you’re facing.
Einstein famously said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions”. Systems Thinking is a mindset and a set of tools that lets us analyse, explore and understand complex problems. Systems tools force us to think of problems more like they actually are in the real world — ever-changing and embedded in a complex system we never fully understand. It is most powerful when deployed at the beginning of working through a problem and is a great way to understand which points in the system cause the problem to occur. It can also help us foresee and address side-effects of our solutions — key for building responsible technology. This paper by Daniel Kim is a great introduction.
Pioneered by IDEO, Design Thinking is an open, friendly and flexible approach to solving problems. It is the foundation of the modern design process, but it’s not for designers only. In fact, design thinking is most powerful when used by diverse teams with different perspectives. Design thinking tools are open, free and well-documented on this IDEO website.
The principle behind a design sprint is to take key bits of the whole innovation process and give them hyperfocus on the idea → learning cycle, skipping everything else. The idea was pioneered at Google by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky and used successfully in thousands of the world’s most exciting companies. The design sprint lasts a week and during that time, you will accurately answer one critical business question. The principle of a design sprint is the most important takeaway. You don’t need to know the exact question you’re asking when you start on Monday. By Friday you will have an answer, verified by customers. The Google Ventures website is a great resource to learn about this process and how to implement it.
Unique entry from Leyla Acaroglu and the Unschool team, Disruptive Design connects the worlds of systems, design thinking and sustainability. If you’re familiar with Systems or Design Thinking, many tools will feel familiar, but you will be more conscious of the global challenges and the consumer culture. This website is a great overview of the method.
Pioneered by Clayton Christensen, Jobs to be Done is a theory of consumer action. The theory helps us understand why customers act the way they do by looking at what jobs they are ‘hiring’ our (or our competitors') products for. The framework serves as a way to connect our products and services to our customers' lives and to make our work serve them better. A great way to learn more is Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen.
The book by Eric Reis titled ‘Lean Startup’ essentially started the global startup movement. Many things we take for granted today in what a startup is and how it should function, we owe to this book and its methodology. It’s a great introduction, and we recommend this book to everyone. Reading it will help you stay true to the lean principles, rather than follow what everyone else is doing. The very premise of the book is to challenge the status quo.
Business model innovation is the art of looking at how to extract value from your product, package and deliver it in a way that helps you build a sustainable, growing business. It isn’t narrowly defined, but the many tools available online, like the Business Model Canvas all fall under this category. A successful business model innovation process will result in you making changes to your value proposition or how you operate, so it’s a great entry point to other tools here, like Design Thinking or Lean Product Development.
After you achieve strong product-market fit, embracing lean product development at the level of your whole organisation will help you build a motivated, effective team that continues to scale, improve and innovate in what you created in the early stages. This is a vast discipline, that looks at the operations of your business holistically, so there’s no one good entry point into it. Refer to this great write-up that summarises key books for relevant teams and areas of business.
As you see, the road to product-market fit involves different approaches and exploring different ways of looking at the same problem. We carry out and facilitate all of these processes at Lumi. With over a decade of working with startups, we learned the hard way that using the right tool for the job is half the battle.
What if you could start answering business critical questions right from the beginning, in a few days, rather than letting them sit as unknown for months?
In the last decade (and especially in the last year), technology has become a crucial, always-present part of our lives. How can we use it to create impact?