Applying Design Thinking – A Manual to Innovation

How Pyoneer started as a Lean Startup

What would you think if there was a manual to create innovative products, experiences or services? I’m not talking about incremental improvements, like e.g. more pixels on your screens or few more horsepower in your car’s engine…
I’m talking about disruptive innovation, that change behaviours of users while improving people’s life!
No worries, if you’re sceptical now! In general innovation is all about humans. Day by day, humans create things for humans!

I want to share my experience from the moment I got into contact with Design Thinking to the moment where I have noticed a deep problem for a specific group of people. That’s when I came up with a great solution to this problem and finally we grew into a rockstar co-founding team to run a Lean Startup now.

I’m excited to share this method and experiences with you. I practice, love, use, teach, and learn from Design Thinking every single day at work, and in life. And I hope to inspire others to apply it in their daily work, as I promise it will guide you to the solution of problems.

Design Thinking – A problem-solving methodology

Developing successful innovative business models, products and services has become one of the most important success rate factors for today’s business landscape.
82 percent of CEO’s of world’s leading companies have concerns about whether their company’s current products or services will be relevant to customers 3 years, the "2016 Global CEO Outlook" survey from KPMG found out.

Especially in times of emerging disruptive technologies, glutted markets, decreasing product lifecycles and continuously increasing expectations of customers. One of the main reasons is digitization and the enormous speed of change.

Speed-of-change
http://www.digitaltransformationbook.com/the-speed-of-change-4-waves-of-digital-acceleration/

Design Thinking is one of the methods to achieve innovation! Most successful startups have successfully applied it and continuously develop their products and services with this framework (like AirBnb and Dropbox). It goes well beyond the plain “look & feel” of an object: it is actually a state of the art problem-solving methodology!

“Design Thinking is a human-centered model that encourages creativity and innovation to create a product or service that solves a complex problem for your target customer or user. It can help you innovate a new product, design a simple solution to a complex problem, or to get the whole team involved in generating design ideas so they feel included and believe in the process.”
David Kelley – IDEO founder

The challenges of a modern business, it’s global and cross-industry aspect urged for new problem-solving frameworks, capable of producing the extraordinary solutions. Design Thinking offered a win-win strategy: “human-centered design that is all about looking out from the inside—rather than outside in”.

Digital business transformation requires innovative, out-of-the-box thinking. Design Thinking is a natural fit as many enterprises seek to transform and, in some cases, reinvent themselves as digital businesses. It was developed by IDEO and is taught at the d.school: Institute of Design at Stanford and HPI school of design thinking in Potsdam – both founded by Hasso Plattner (Co-founder of SAP).

It involves massive collaboration and frequent iterations and has five very clear phases:

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

Design-Thinking-Process

I’m going into detail on the Design Thinking process in some upcoming articles, that’s why I’m going to skip this for now.

Lean Startup – an efficiency model for innovation

The term “Lean Startup” was developed in the IT industry for software startups and became very popular with the book “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries in 2011. "Lean" principles were developed in the early seventies by Toyota to optimize production processes and reduce any sort of waste in the process. The Lean Startup process claims that the most efficient innovation is the one for which there is an actual demand by the users. Or put in other words: the biggest waste is creating a product or service that nobody needs. This concept is highly relevant for any strategy or method that aims at creating innovations.

Design Thinking and Lean Startup are not the same, but comparing them you’ll notice that they have one thing in common. It is all about the customer. Both methodologies try to identify customer needs in order to create appropriate solutions. The method of lean startup goes one step further: try to test core business assumptions early in the product development process, sometimes even before any product is built at all. Track your assumptions and learn from the insights that you have gathered during testing with your customer.

Continue this build-measure-learn cycle and make progress in an iterative way, while getting closer to the solution your customer wants to have.

Lean-Startup-Proces-1

Pyoneer’s start as a Lean Startup

At the moment I have to admit to put all my energy and time into founding a company. It was also clear that perfect execution is required in everything we’re going to do. I knew it will be a super difficult and long way. There are many statistics of failing startups and the figure is around 90%. To become successful it’s not sufficient to have a good product idea or excellent sales people. **The perfect balance of the right product, while serving the market with excellence and managing everything by an awesome organization, is required. **

When our founding team grew together, we’ve noticed to have a perfect balance of complementary skills – the most valuable achievement in the early days for a startup! We are convinced that we’re going to be successful, no matter where the future is leading us to, but finding a perfect set of founders is the main groundwork. Everyone of us is somehow different and there are often some deep discussions. But we see this more as fuel for our spirit!
As we had founded a team, we knew that there was a growing market and had a solution for a problem so we decided to build up everything using Design Thinking methods. We wanted to execute in perfection from day 1! We created target groups, analyzed their behaviours, interviewed to understand their jobs and problems. In Lean Startup everything is about validating your assumptions and hypotheses, so these steps were required in order to gain confidence if our tool was to solve their problem. Additionally, we created mockups and digital prototypes that we again showed to our target group to gain feedback whether our solution is sufficient and viable for them.

As it turned out most of our assumptions were correct so we decided to build our solution – and to found our startup Pyoneer. It’s a Software-as-a-Service application for documenting, visualizing and managing all your innovation activities based on Design Thinking and Lean Startup methodologies. With Pyoneer we want to provide the right toolset for each process phase and guide the user through the process. We also want to enable access and full transparency of collected information and results for everyone – to help teams across the globe to convey the big picture in one place.

We are currently in the development and are going to release our first features the next weeks and are totally excited to see which feedback users are going to give us. We’re seeking this feedback, as it’s essential to get better and know exactly what our customers need.

We believe that if we keep listening, thinking, creating, validating, learning and always being open and transparent we’ll end up with the right amount of customer value and we’ll create a solution that people love.

As you can see we started with a Lean Startup culture and we will continue on this as we’re positive it will guide us to success! I hope I could inspire some of the readers and would be happy to hear your opinions. Stay tuned if you are interested in our path, we’ll be back soon!

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