Innovation and Lean


I’ve been doing a lot of reading around Disruption Theory, Lean product develop, and Lean Startup theory including the application of all three. One of the more interesting aspects of Disruption theory is that people hire products to do specific jobs. This is fairly similar to the questions that Lean Startup and product development ask, what problem are you trying to solve. This hired to solve a job approach seems to instill some limitations if these jobs aren’t continually re-evaluated. For example, in the Innovator’s Solution they talk about RIM and their Blackberry device, now this book was written in the early 2000s, which means that there was an actual debate if they should include cellular service or not. They argue that the job RIM is hired to do is to provide short periods of distraction to business people.

The risk of not re-evaluating these jobs on an extremely frequent basis, such as quarterly or annually, would likely lead to missing out on something like the iPhone. What I found interesting in this section of the book is that they argue against cramming every type of feature into a single device. I think that, at the time, this was sound advice due to the limitations of the technology, the costs of doing that, and immaturity of the markets still.

I believe this is where the Lean Startup approach really would help. Innovator’s Solution basically argues for the minimum viable product for a given job. Afterwards, through collecting data on how the users actively use the product the team can learn in which direction the product should mature. Through engaging continually with the customers it’s possible to understand and, with the right questions, determine if and when the job the product is hired to do is starting to change over time.

For example, iTunes was originally designed to be a light weight music playing piece of software. The job was to play music. Over time, because of the goal to move up market and capture other markets, Apple added new features, changing the jobs that iTunes was capable to fulfill. In some cases this lead to clear overserving customers and has since been accused of becoming bloatware. Using the correct metrics Apple would know if they were losing market share or if their market share was being artificially maintained because of the iPhone/iPad. This means that the music playing space is clearly ripe for disruption. The most popular product is over serving most of the market and causes excess performance drain on systems using the software. This is clearly why, despite iTunes popularity, services like Last.fm, Pandora, and Google Music are so popular. They are meeting the market where the market is and moving.

Over the next few weeks I plan to explore these theories and techniques in more detail. I plan to work towards something of a unifying theory and then attempt to deploy them in a startup of my own and write a book about the process. I have no idea what startup I plan to start but that’ll be half the fun! As a writer for KBMOD, I plan to work with the leaders of that team and deploy these theories with them. Hopefully seeing positive results for those guys.

6 thoughts on “Innovation and Lean

  1. Pingback: Adoption of Agile compared to Lean | Science, Technology, + Culture

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