Innovation with Design Thinking, Lean, Agile and DevOps

Lean and Agile adoption has been seeing an upward trend since 2006. After discussing speed, quality and doing the right things, here is a discussion on identifying the right thing and delivering it at a high speed.

Jainendra Kumar May 22nd 2018

Lean and Agile adoption has been seeing an upward trend since 2006. In my previous article “End-to-end product process, with Design Thinking, Lean, Agile and DevOps”, I have focused on speed, quality and doing the right things. In this article I focus on identifying the right thing and delivering it at a high speed.
 
Innovation: For the last two years consecutively, growth has topped the list of business priorities in Gartner’s CIO survey reports. Growth calls for innovation as it is the most powerful way to drive business growth in today’s challenging economic environment. Of late software organizations have been focusing on speed and quality of delivery. Agile adoption has been seeing an upward trend since 2006.

In Merriam-Webster innovation is defined as the introduction of something new. On the same page, it provides the difference between invention and innovation. The invention can refer to a type of musical composition, a falsehood, a discovery, or any product of the imagination. Whereas Innovation, for its part, can refer to something new or to a change made to an existing product, idea, or field. One might say that the first telephone was an invention, the first cellular telephone either an invention or an innovation, and the first smartphone an innovation. Innovation is defiantly more tangible and is introduced or rolled out. For growth, these innovation has to be useful and meeting customer needs.

Design Thinking is a method of finding practical and creative solutions to complex problems. It brings together a team of people from diverse fields like engineering, design, and business, to understand customer needs and creatively meet those needs. It walks participants through proven steps of inspiration, problem definition, idea generation, prototyping, review and feedback.
According to Tim Brown, author, and CEO of world-renowned design consultancy 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.”

Adopting design thinking can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which IDEO calls design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable.

Prototyping is an integral part of Design Thinking and User Experience design in general because it allows us to test our ideas quickly and improve on them in an equally timely fashion. A prototype is a simple experimental model of a proposed solution used to test or validate ideas, design assumptions and other aspects of its conceptualization quickly and cheaply so that the designers involved can make appropriate refinements or possible changes in direction.

To simplify, Design Thinking is how we explore and solve problems; Lean is the framework for testing our beliefs and learning our way to the right outcomes; and Agile is how we adapt to changing conditions with software. By combining Design thinking, Lean and DevOps we are more likely to come up with better and viable ideas, and deliver them at speed with value item getting delivered and tested incrementally.

This still seems a bit sequential and seems to be apt for big large complex problems, but what about continuous innovation in a platform or in a live product where the speed of delivery after discovery is critical to maintaining market dominance through new differentiating features. A methodology called dual-track agile may fit in such cases. It divides the daily activity of a product team in 2 tracks: discovery and delivery. The two tracks go in parallel.

During discovery the team identifies problems and starts thinking about the solutions, designing prototypes and testing them as much as possible. Once the prototype is validated, the team can start the delivery of that feature, which means actually building it. Dual track is about product design and product development work, which although is commonly depicted separate, requires designers and developers to work closely together. These are two tracks but one team. Developers should be involved in discovery and designers in development: the whole team is responsible for product outcomes.

All the three methods engage users in a frequent feedback loop so we can adapt to maximize value creation. These tools at one hand help organization in building better products. At the same time they unlock people’s potential to create more impact and lead more fulfilling lives.

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Jainendra Kumar is VP Engineering, RateGain

Disclaimer: This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the contributing authors and not of IDG Media and its editor(s).