Lean Customer Discovery Needs Design Research

When you are in a startup, under the gun, trying to execute – how do you find time for empathy?

Lean launchpad simulates entrepreneurship by requiring founders to get out of the building…and into their customer’s world.

Teams succeed when they start talking to people, and find the magic in actually validating their hypotheses with customers, potential partners, and even fellow founders who may have tried to pursue the same dream. But it’s hard to get underneath.

What we heard:

“I think I only scratched the surface, and never really got to the core problems.”

“I don’t know if my customers really understand what they need enough to articulate it to me.”

“Customers said they would pay, but then they didn’t when it came time to pay.”

The truth is that when you are just TALKING – you fail to yield anything but the obvious facts, the surface level insights. For greater learning, Ajay Revels and I reviewed all of the design research literature. Not all of ethnography or design research is relevant for a startup founder – but there are critical skills and techniques that will radically accelerate your ability to understand the pain for which you are trying to solve.

In this slideshare, we highlight the core techniques we’ve curated from D-School, Steve Portigal’s great source, Interviewing Users, Universal Methods of Design, and Ajay herself from Polite Machines.

Have you used design research techniques have you used to get to the underlying needs of your customers?

Lean LaunchPad Educators Program

I’m at the Lean LaunchPad Educators Program – Steve Blank’s entrepreneurship curriculum delivered to 90+ educators around the world. I’m here thanks to the efforts of NYU to cultivate entrepreneurship across the school, with ITP as a potentially ideal place to adopt the methods.

We are all entrepreneurship-leaning educators at the grad and undergrad level, and there are a number of regional accelerators and incubators who teach methods. The best components of this program: the course materials, curriculum, handbooks for teaching are all available publicly, with back up video support and class room examples. Underwritten by the NCIIA, a not for profit organization that has also funded this approach to be delivered to National Science Foundation grantees. It is available here: Lean LaunchPad Educators Program.

But the richest conversations are occurring amongst participants who have adopted or are considering a Lean LaunchPad approach. Hopefully today we will get into the following topics:

  • Adapting Lean LaunchPad for Social Entrepreneurship.
  • The perceived conflict between Design Thinking  and Lean – the perception that design approaches “take too long” was shared by Steve Blank – yet Eric Reis and others have referenced design thinking approaches as part of the core building blocks of lean startup.
  • Adapting Lean LaunchPad for startups in regulated industries – where does FDA fit into to a medical device or mHealth startup.
  • Recognition that the educator techniques borrow from Art and Design school methods of critique, and classroom dynamics shift from the professor as pedagogue to a team learning approach. Charrette-style.

Looking forward to today’s discussions.