Designing for Customers – Combining Startup and Innovation Techniques

The Lean Startup / Business Model Canvas / Customer Development process for developing a new product (and business) has become widely used, with well-documented techniques. On the other hand, innovation (starting with new product invention and early product development) is still sometimes seen as a serendipitous happening, not a process.

  1. Innovation is very much a process, with its own set of well-documented techniques.
  2. The two processes, innovation process and startup process, fit together nicely – and together produce superior new products.

I recently had the pleasure of presenting at Startup Week Fort Wayne. During an hour I introduced the audience to the base concept you’ll read here – and then dove into the details of how to apply the innovation techniques (subjects for later posts).

We’ll start by laying out both processes.

This is admittedly a very simplified portrayal, but it highlights the commonalities between the two processes. Notice how the blocks are the same, but just not in the same order! The two processes, at least in my opinion, address the same issues and do the same things.

Innovation process (as I practiced it) is very front loaded with research. Learn what customers value, walk in their shoes, understand their challenges – and then start designing. Startup process has always wanted to rush the front end, make some assumptions, quickly get something that fits those assumptions into the market, and then validate directly with market feedback and iteration.

Critics of innovation process would say that it wastes time with ideas instead of getting to market where one can gather direct feedback about a new product. Critics of these entrepreneurship processes would say that launching without thorough research produces naive products that can miss huge opportunities to add value.

Both processes are right. Both processes are valuable. Both processes seek to design and create value for customers. If we combine them, here’s what we get.

Which leads to this.

The two processes together create one tight process that learns customer values directly from the customers and designs an initial product based on that solid knowledge, but then also continues to gather direct customer feedback to ensure and improve value creation.

In a little more depth, it looks like this.

If this looks a bit like what you already do when you create new products or businesses, then kudos. If you’d like to learn more about how to apply a powerful combination of innovation and entrepreneurship techniques in your business, stay tuned.

Read this article and others at https://medium.com/@swfranks