What is the difference between Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile?
I often get asked what the difference is between those terms. “Is lean startup opposite of design thinking? oh no, maybe it is the same?” and “Ah ok, so you mean agile?” or “I think Agile is a better word for it”. Those are some of the comments I get whenever I talk about one of terms above.
I will hereby try to clarify what these terms relate to, and how they can be integrated with each other.
Design thinking is an iterative process in which we thrive to understand the user’s pain, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, in order to create new strategies and solutions.
Opposed to “Brainstorming”, Design thinking promotes “Painstorming”, in order to fully understand the user’s pain.
The usual Design thinking phases are the following:
- Empathize with your users
- Define your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights
- Ideate by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions
- Prototype to start creating solutions
- Test solutions
According to Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO: “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
“Lean startup is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.” — Wikipedia
Globally, 90% of startups fail (Forbes) and the number one reason is market failure: “They make products no one wants.” (Fortune).
The lean startup methodology was born in Silicon Valley in the 90s, but the use of the word “lean” has its roots to Toyota’s lean production system. Toyota’s lean manufacturing system was used to build things efficiently, yet it doesn’t tell what should be built.
Using Eric Ries words: “The Lean Startup provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and get a desired product to customers’ hands faster. The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup-how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere-and grow a business with maximum acceleration. It is a principled approach to new product development.”
Agile is a way of working, based on an iterative development, incremental delivery and ongoing reassessment of a product.
As mostly used in software development, it is based on a clear idea of the product’s concept and its market. Contrary to the idea of focusing on a set of features to be developed, agile focuses on the high value features first.
Agile is all about producing tangible, working results after each iteration. According to the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto, “Working software is the primary measure of progress.” Deliver a rough draft, then revise based on your editor’s suggestions. Never deliver the entire piece all at once!
Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile can be combined as shown in the picture below.
- Empathize, Define and Ideate through Design Thinking
- Turn ideas into Business models following the lean startup
- Build and deliver the product incrementally and faster through Agile processes.
If 90% of startups fail because they produce products nobody wants, combining those methodology drastically reduce this risk of failing.
As you probably noticed, all the three methodologies take the final user into account, through direct feedback. This feedback loop makes sure that no product is created without a purpose to the final user. This is clearly against the old way of planning on paper and then starting building a real product based on a list of pre-decided features.
One Step Further
Using the new Lean Entrepreneurship Guide, recently published 6-page, laminated chart of all 14 lean, evidenced-based entrepreneurship planning methods, startups can be better designed for surer success. Besides design thinking and agile, pieces of different lean methods can be used for stages in the planning process. For example Marius Ursache of the DE Toolbox suggests a lean launch pad process can be enhanced by using the lean (Ash Maurya’s Running Lean) vs. business model canvas and the customer development more thorough using DE, disciplined entrepreneurship (Bill Aulet MIT).
Tailoring a lean startup plan through combination of techniques will make the final result more successful and certain to satisfy the customer need. To buy the lean entrepreneurship guide on Amazon, see https://www.amazon.com/Lean-Entrepreneurship-Guide-Clinton-Day/dp/1423242017.