By: Jennifer Dilley, Vice President, Research and Business Development
“Put your best foot forward.” Anyone ever tell you that? Yet the book “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries contradicts this mantra. It sparks the question – how good is good enough?
Thinking back on my career, I have been rewarded for showing my ‘best.’ Success came from a systemic approach of analyze, plan and execute. We learned and learned some more, and when we had sufficient data and confidence, then we acted. I think this is best described as “Learn. Learn. Learn. Do.” And this methodical process still has a place in some business decisions.
But what level of learning is necessary when innovating and there are no established data points to reference?
According to Ries, innovation requires a new form of management and expectations. Success requires we learn fast, adjust and learn again. It is an ever-evolving proposition to sell our product and stay ahead of the competition. I think this is best described as “Learn-do learn-do learn-do.”
A learn-do cycle focuses on prioritized learning, creating only the minimum needed to test a hypothesis. What you test shouldn’t be perfect. Learning comes from doing. “Good enough” gives the opportunity to quickly learn and adapt.
For those of us who have always been evaluated on our ‘best’ – good enough can make us vulnerable. And while this made me a little uncomfortable, I challenged myself to adjust and have since experienced success faster with learning sprints.
So, what is the definition of success? I can’t say it better than Mark Cook’s quote in Ries’ book.
“Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.”Mark Cook
That’s easy to say, but how to truly do it? You can’t overtly ask the customer what they want as few truly know — or if they do, how to vocalize it. It’s the famous Henry Ford adage, “If I had asked people what they wanted; they would have said a faster horse.”
So, taking some points from Ries’ book, stretching myself to become comfortable being uncomfortable, and partnering with others to find their ‘good enough’ — let me share 5-Steps we have found successful when innovating.
1.Talk with your consumers!
If you do not know your consumers, then you don’t know what they want – what is important to them. The greatest failure can be thinking you are your consumer. Get outside the office and go talk to your consumers.
2. Prioritize your learning
It is human nature to want to ask ALL the questions we have. Sprints work best with clear, prioritized objectives for each phase. We recommend having a rough idea of what you need to learn at each sprint and be open to pivoting.
3. Plan for sprints
Don’t overlook the need for planning with agile learning. Preparation is important for consecutive, quick bursts of learning. Agility comes in what you ask and adjusting objectives for the next sprint.
4. Can you make a sale?
Even if you don’t have a product to sell, is the consumer wanting to buy? This is the best indication of your product’s potential success. As you engage with your consumers, remember to ask for the sale.
5. Judge progress differently
Judging success in a Learn Learn Learn Do world is easy. Did we deliver what was projected? With sprints, progress is measured by what you learn. What worked / didn’t? What new questions need to be asked? Are you closer to creating the ‘right’ product to meet your consumers’ wants?
Let’s bring these 5-steps to life with an example familiar to many of us. At Tesla these steps to success have expanded beyond single product innovation to an organizational mindset.
“Tesla …iterates and rolls out improvements as they come. It takes in feedback regularly, as if it thrives on new ideas, solving problems, continuous improvement and iteration … Use of agile principles …have helped Tesla to perfect its vehicles and bring innovations to market that would have taken more traditional automotive companies years if not decades to get into the hands of customers.”*
“Good enough” has been a positive change for me. Can you embrace a lean startup mentality at your organization or with your team? I’d love to find out!
*Field, Kyle. 2018, Sept 1. “Tesla Has Applied Agile Software Development to Automotive Manufacturing” CleanTechnica