You do not need to choose a methodology to innovate

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Which method do you choose? Design Thinking? Agile? Lean Startup? Answer: All? None? Who cares?!

 

I am a big believer in process and method. Without a process we are lost — flapping in the wind. My time in theatre taught me that. Now I use the same mindset to build companies.

From working with the world’s largest organisations I have heard things like this:

Can you walk me through the decision tree for when to choose agile, lean or design thinking?

or

We have standardised on design thinking as an organisation so we can’t talk about lean startup.

or

The CEO has been reading about design thinking. Can you make sure you feature that in your proposal?

The big company habit — because it helps proven patterns grow — is to slap a label on things and then scale the crap out of it. Here’s Jeff Bezos in his 2016 Letter to Shareholders.

As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2.

A common example is process as proxy. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing.

This can happen very easily in large organisations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right. Gulp. – Jeff Bezos

Mastery of a process means knowing when to let it go. When to hack it. When to try something new. This is only possible if we know WHY rather than focus too heavily on WHAT. Most big companies learn the WHAT quickly in a workshop and then do their best to apply it, quickly falling into the process-as-a-proxy pattern above.

There is no one method to rule them all. There is no church to follow. But it does all begin to make sense if we begin with the WHY.

The Why

Developing a business in 2017 is daunting because the rate of technology change is SO SO fast, customers have extremely high demands and there is 10x more competition. These leads to beliefs that drive my WHY. In order to succeed today:

  • We must begin, continue and end with the customer.
  • We must be ready to adapt. Open to the world changing around us.
  • We must act (do stuff!) more than we think.
  • We must be quick.

My question is always: “Are we doing these things?” Not “Are we running the process correctly?”

Who cares if you consider the SOLUTION cell before the PROBLEM cell on a lean canvas, as long as you are thinking about the WHY.

3 Modern Methods

There are 3 modern methods that help us to do the WHY.

  • Design Thinking
  • Lean Startup
  • Agile

They each rose from communities that think differently, but operate in a world in which the WHY is a constant.

All three have some principles in common.

And they work together really well.

And they are powerful when they work together.

I hope this helps you refine your method. Become a master and use it freely. As Peter Brook (a theatre director!) says:

“Hold on tightly, let go lightly.”

P.S. There are some great free tools for managing all of these methods at startupscience.com.

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This article originally appeared on the Prototypr blog.

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