For most organisations, when it comes to the back end of the innovation process, one of the areas where we see an enormous opportunity for improvement is at the ‘prototyping’ phase. Prototyping isn’t always about building a product prototype; rather, it is a step in the process where we test our assumptions and hypotheses before we start ‘full blown’ implementation of our innovation (whether it be a product, service, process, business model, or other innovation).
At this step, we advocate the adoption of Lean Startup Methodology, which since Eric Ries published his best-selling book, The Lean Startup, in 2011, has become best practice. One of the core elements of Lean Startup Methodology is to develop Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) which are, to quote Ries himself: “a version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” It’s also important to note that this methodology can be used for any innovation (not just product innovation).
The first few steps in this process are:
1. Develop a list of your value hypotheses (the hypotheses that you hold relating to how your innovation meets a need or demand) and your growth hypotheses (the hypotheses that you hold relating to how your innovation will grow and gain traction sustainably)
2. Prioritise them (biggest ‘leaps of faith’ are the highest priority)
3. Design MVPs to test your hypotheses
4. Test your hypotheses using the MVPs (highest priorities first!)
When we are working on innovation projects with our clients, one of the overwhelming issues we see with the development of MVPs is that they are not minimum enough! Lean Startup Methodology is all about minimising risk and maximising success rates by generating validated learnings as quickly and cost effectively as possible. An MVP is definitely not just a ‘crappy’ version of your innovation. Instead it is the minimum ‘product’ you can create to test your hypotheses.
We have tested hypotheses for innovations that are designed to generate millions of dollars in revenue or savings by creating MVPs that have cost a total of $100. Yes, you read it right, $100! A great way for you to develop your ability to achieve this is to start asking “can we make this more minimum?” every time you design an MVP. And then challenge others in your team to try. Remember, all you are looking to do is to accept or reject your hypothesis, so you want to design the most minimum MVP you possibly can.
So, the next time you are prototyping your innovation before implementation, develop an MVP to test your hypotheses before any significant investments are made. And my challenge to you is to try and see just how minimum you can go!