Lean canvas, Lean Development, the Theory of Disruption

In yesterday’s article I talked about how you can use a product development approach called Set Based Concurrent Design (SBCD) to avoid some of the risks associated with developing a disruptive design regardless of how integrated or modular a given technology and its platforms are. Before that I had written about a concept called Lean Canvas to include questions associated with disruption to help push the initial design into a more disruptive place to maximize the likelihood of success.

In “Running Lean” the author, either knowingly or unknowingly emulated the benefits of SBCD whenever he fully described his approach for creating Lean Canvases. Ash Maurya recommended that for any given startup to initially start with multiple different views of the initial Lean Canvas which could represent different solutions, problems, customer sets, and metrics. Each one of these is to be discussed with potential customers in interviews.

However, once you understand your customer, you’ll need to begin developing your solution. In the case of a piece of software it may be easiest to simply caret multiple wireframe mock ups that emulate the SBCD. While with physical products, you’ll need to start with several mock ups and ideally multiple different specifications for components within the design. This is important as you may need to mix and match components of your physical design based on the niche customer set that you are targeting. The best result may end up forcing you to create a product that might be difficult to make if you don’t plan for the different specification interactions from the beginning.

While building your product as  you look at each different iteration it is important to continue asking if the actual solution continues to be disruptive or if it has slid into a less disruptive niche in the market. It is also vital that you still are aware if the interaction between the changes in your product and how it impacts your customers. If your potential customer decide that there are too many features you may have pushed yourself out of the initial niches  you were striving for. This will also mean you’re moving into a market space that will force you to compete head on with your competitors.

Using these three tools, questions for disruptions, lean canvas, and setbased concurrent design, will help speed the decision to continue pursuing a specific product, problem, and customer set. The point of this early process is to speed learning as quickly as possible and the B-M-L approach coupled with a set of Lean Cavnases and Products will help rapidly increase that knowledge set. Especially when using tools to help determine the trade-offs between your choices.

Finally, with continual engagement with your customers and products that are narrowing down towards a completed solution, you may find that your sets of products could become a family of products. This means that your learning may even be more valuable than before.

Innovation and Lean Product Development

This is another portion of my on-going series for Innovation, Lean, Lean Startup, and Agile, see my last one here.

So far we’ve talked about how to combine some of the various theories together. For example looking how Lean and Agile work together or Lean startup and Lean work together. Similarly we looked briefly at how Lean Startup and Agile can be meshed, but haven’t discussed this much. Today we’re going to look at how the Lean Product Development methodology can be combined with the theories purported in the Theory of Disruption. I will look at how these can be combined with yesterdays article tomorrow.

Lean Product Development is a natural outgrowth of Lean manufacturing. It is how Toyota is able to continuously develop new products at a faster rate than their North American competitors. It is how Toyota is able to create new designs that are extremely high quality and disruptive to the market.

In the Innovator’s Solution, Christensen argues that integration and modularity are on a swinging pendulum where due to the constraints on the “not good enough” technology, that a more integrative approach is required because a fully modular design would reduce performance below thresholds that customers would be willing to pay for. Christensen argues that this would occur because relationships between firms dictate how new technologies can be developed. Whenever firms work jointly on a technology there must be agreements in terms how the components interconnect with each other. These underlying interfaces between technologies evolve much more slowly whenever there are multiple firms are working at the interface of these technologies.

Allen Ward writes about Toyota’s methodology for product development. He calls this approach Set Based Concurrent Design, where there are multiple different designs for a given new product from the start. For the case of the Prius, Toyota started the process with incredibly lofty goals and over 20 initial designs. These designs were kept loose initially, until they were reduced down to four that were selected to be turned into clay molds. During this time Toyota had been working closely with their suppliers, where they had no plans to insource more of their components than for a typical car. As it stands Toyota uses suppliers to provide roughly 75% of components to their cars, while focusing on the hardest components like the Engine and body. Similarly to a gas car, for the Prius Toyota elected to keep ownership of the drive train, and the hybrid engine systems. Otherwise everything else would be managed in a similar process as any other car.

To manage for the uncertainty of their four designs, they provided their suppliers with a range of requirements. Engineers at Toyota and their suppliers developed a range of “Trade-off” curves, which provide the ranges of trades-offs between different features and the limitations of those features. For example, engine vibration will have a trade-off with the tolerances of the Pistons. These trade-off curves increase the rate of learning for a given product and reduces the risk for a new product development.

This means with more information shared between companies there is less need for companies to oscillate between heavily integrated designs and modular designs. For an organization like Toyota the desire to share information and creating a formal process to enable disruptive innovation without owning the entire new product is a huge advantage for the organization. Toyota is actively investing in new capabilities and disrupting their competition.

This of course doesn’t disprove what Christensen is saying though. This approach has worked well for Toyota but has not been adopted by many other organizations. This is one of the problems that companies are having with disruptive technology. Furthermore, Toyota inherently turns new product development into a pseudo skunk works, which is what Christensen recommends for these ventures, by making their Chief Engineer a mini CEO for the product as well as dedicating, or as close as possible, engineering and manufacturing resources to the tasks. Finally, Toyota focuses on a few key elements that will be disruptive while reusing a great deal of older technologies maximizing technology reuse and learning from historic projects.

Disruption and Lean Startup – improving the Lean Canvas

One of the more interesting tools I’ve discovered lately was the Business Model Canvas. This was created by Alex Osterwald with a huge group of people. I thought it was incredibly useful for putting issues that companies have into a specific context. However, I did feel that something was missing. Something important. The picture linked above is extremely useful for an existing company that wants to put everyone on the same page, but I felt that it would fall a little flat in helping a new company start. There are simply too many unknowns to answer a lot of the questions that are in the frame work.

This is where the book Running Lean comes in. The author decided to adapt the business model canvas into something that a lot of entrepreneurs could use the Lean Canvas. In entrepreneur circles today, the most important thing to focus on is the problem trying to be solved. If you don’t have a clear articulation of the problem you’re trying to solve you’re going to fail. As such, there is more of a focus on the problem, the metrics associated with the problem and less focus on the planned solution. Secondly, Ash Maurya, argues that the best way to use the Lean Canvas is to look at both the problem and customer segment concurrently. Ignoring any potential solution, but looking at the problem you’re trying to solve and the people you’re trying to solve it for. This helps keep in perspective the real goal with your product, solving a problem for a customer that they’d be willing to pay you to solve.

However, I believe that this solution is still missing something which is something of an analysis of the existing competition and the planned solution. While Maurya does highly recommend including existing solutions under the problem, there is no effort to really use them – other than to make sure your product is different than their product. With the Lean Canvas the goal is to interview customers to identify if your existing solution is worth pursing more through rapid continual feedback – leveraging the MVP that I discussed in my last article. There are a few questions that can be asked to help shape the direction of the solution before talking to any customers.These questions come from the Theory of Disruption which argues that there will be less competition over time for the customers you’re pursuing because incumbent firms truly don’t want them as customers.

Does this product compete with Non-consumption? If you can answer yes to this, then you are expecting to undercut an existing incumbent that does not serve an existing market segment. In the case of Radios this mean extremely low quality devices that most people wouldn’t buy. In the case of video games now, you could argue that consoles are competing against non-consumption, this argument makes even more sense in terms of games on a smart phone. If the answer is No, then you need to ask the next two questions.

Does this product represent a sustaining technology? If you introduce this product to the market does it go after the same customers that the existing firms are already attempting to serve? Furthermore, does it go after the highest most valuable customers in those customers segments? If you answer yes to this, you will face extremely stiff competition from incumbent firms. They want those customers and will fight you tooth and nail for them. You will lose against those businesses and should look for a different solution to the problem you’re trying to address. If the answer to this is no, then you need to ask yourself the next question.

Does this product represent a disruptive technology? If you introduce this product would only the least valuable customers decide to purchase it? These would be customers that are being over served by existing solutions. For example, Pandora and Google Play Music both represent solutions for people that are over served by Apple’s iTunes. For customers that find iTunes to be part of their iDevice there’s little reason for them to look outside Apple’s Ecosystem especially since there are solutions for Apple users in that ecosystem. However, for non-iDevice users, iTunes represents a product that has many features that are undesirable. So Pandora and Google Play Music represent a smaller music collection where you never own the actual music you’re listening to even if you pay a premium for the updated services. This is disruptive to iTunes for that very reason.

Including these three questions at the minimum, with a clear understanding as to what they each mean, will help shape the solution to the problem you are trying to solve. Additionally, it will help you understand what customer segments you should pursue from the very beginning. As you are successful in capturing the lower tier customers you will continually improve your product and begin to move farther and farther up market. Which allows you to then truly disrupt the market.

Combining these theories into the Lean Starup approach will help understand the best route to pursue. Furthermore, you might not be able to answer these questions honestly. You will likely need to get customer feedback pertaining to these questions. Don’t as straight forwardly if the customer thinks it’s sustaining or disruptive, they won’t understand what that means. You will need to ask them if a competitor is already offering this service and if they aren’t using it why. If they are using a similar service make sure you try to differentiate between the competing product and high light the differences. Try to understand if your competitor would release this and if their customers would use the service.

That’s where the Lean Startup Build Measure Learn cycle comes back into the fore, you ask questions, learn build again, learn, and continue the cycle.

AMD, What Are You Doing?

The past few months haven’t been kind to AMD. First Lisa Su, the first female CEO, ousted Rory Read. Now three leaders have left including the General Manager John Byrnes, CMO Colette LaForce and Chief Strategist Rajan Naik. Furthermore, it’s pretty clear that the remaining two leaders long term leaders, Mark Papermaster CTO and Devindar Kumar were sort of bribed to stay with restricted stock. This is on top of delays in their desktop, graphics, and mobile chipset and layoffs.

I think it’s pretty clear that AMD no longer has a clear strategy. AMD, while I was working there, was starting to put out some cool stuff that could really define the future of computing. Their APUs were best in class and could have been deployed in a lot of really cool applications. However, those never appeared to have materialized and now Intel is starting to attack the SoC market. While Intel’s Iris graphic chipset is way behind AMD in pure power, I think it’s going to play a serious role in the up coming years especially since Intel is leveraging a similar enough design that they are able to use the Open Compute Language that AMD championed.

Another area of concern for AMD fans is that John Byrne, shortly before his departure, announced at CES that AMD was steering clear of the IoT phenomenon. Which I found surprising considering that their strategy, only a year and a half ago, was to conquer the embedded computing space. Since they restructured again, that’s about 4 times in the past 4 years, they have clearly decided to forego that space. The IoT chipsets are likely going to be a disruptive technology to computing. For instance, this computer you can dock and upgrade every year for about $200, while Intel released a full Windows computer on an HDMI stick for $150. In the past I wrote that I thought that the dockable phone that would turn into a full computer would be the long term future, but these are the incremental steps to get us there.

AMD clearly doesn’t see these spaces the future. They are currently looking at where the market is now and not truly planning for the future. I was excited whenever AMD announced the partnership with Gizmosphere hoping it could compete head to head with the Raspberry Pi, but AMD is clearly failing to embrace that movement, since those devices would be powering the IoT and the maker movement. On the otherhand Intel is rushing to embrace these groups and sees these people as the way into attacking Qualcomm, Samsung, ARM, and Apple’s designs.

Low power is going to be vital for the future expecting a smaller and smaller niche of applications. In these applications, excepting graphics chips, AMD is getting crushed. Even in the graphics space AMD is starting to flounder with poor quality, as @NipnopsTV reported with his year old or so 7970 card.

All of these should be a concern for AMD fans. The company is not investing in the disruptive technology hitting their industry, their market cap is only $2.06B and their shares are at $2.66. They may be positioning themselves to get bought or could be at risk for a hostile take over for their IP or pushed into bankruptcy since their IP might be worth more than the company operating as it is. Look at Nortel to as an example where it’s IP was sold for $4.5B while everything else was just ditched.

Could we eventually see a Samsung R290 and a Samsung Kaveri processor? They gobbled up a ton of AMD’s engineers in 2013 definitely could happen.

Disrupting Mobile Phones – Google’s taking the lead and Apple is going to lose

http://news.phonebloks.com/

Photoblok’s high level picture of their design

For some people, Motorola’s Project Aria, in partnership with Phonebloks, is going to be a game changer, while others are kind of like, meh. I think that the end result of this phone will actually be a game changer, but not everyone will switch to this format of phone. Many people will continue to buy phones that have been designed for the full experience. However, I do think that theses phone will significantly impact in how many people think of phones.

These phones represent a disruptive shift for the phone industry. Why are these disruptive when I said that Kayak isn’t disruptive? Well, in the book Innovator’s Dilemma Dr. Christensen argues that when new industries are formed the leaders are companies that are able to combine all the pieces that are needed for producing that good under one roof. In the case of airline travel all the booking used to take place through the airlines, eventually this was outsourced to Travel Agents which were something of an extension of the airlines. The first disruption came when other groups were able to use the internet to book reservations. The act of reserving a seat on a plane became decoupled with the actual flight and service.

So, in the case of mobile phones, specifically smart phones of course, the most successful firms were the ones that were able to combine everything you needed for the phone to be useful. Blackberry did this, but Apple was clearly the best at it. The original iPhone was basically an iPod with a cell antenna in it. This was an amazing thing though. Apple had disrupted the music distribution industry with iTunes and was able to leverage that innovation into smart phones. This of course was a disruption in that industry because everyone was focusing on productivity first, Apple approached it from a content perspective. Content always beats out productivity. In a very real sense, the market changed over night. Apple owns everything in their cell phone, the OS, the design of the chip, the distribution network for apps, music, movies, etc. This is a very classic example of fully integrating as much of the supply chain as possible.

This is exactly how computers started. Large companies like DEC and IBM built everything for a computer. The boards, the operating system, the software, and the interfaces. These companies were large and structured in a way to make money from extremely expensive mainframes which had a very small market. Between Xerox and IBM the personal computer as we know it today was invented.

Our PCs today are modular, which means that every portion of the computer can be built and designed by different firms. This allows a lot more innovation across the platform because it doesn’t rely on one firm to create everything. It allows specialization and diversification for an assembly company. It was because of this modular nature that Intel, Dell, and Microsoft became successful. They were able to leverage the platform that IBM delivered with the PC and grow and develop new capabilities.

This modularity also allowed just about anyone that wanted to the capability to built their own custom made computer. This has become less so with laptops – you can’t buy an empty laptop but you can customize it from a company. This just isn’t the case with smart phones – which are essentially mini computers. The new tablets coming out are as powerful as computers from the early 2000s.  The modularity of PCs offer an additional benefit, you have the ability to easily fix them. If your processor dies or your graphics card does you can buy another and simply pop it in. Even if the motherboard goes, you can still replace that and plug all your existing components into the board. The case is the only thing you don’t have to change if you don’t want to.

With phones the screen is like the case. You don’t really need to upgrade your screen every time. Especially with how hard the screens are unless you drop the phone and crack the screen you don’t need to replace it. Furthermore, we’re getting to the point we are with TVs that the resolution of the screen isn’t going to make much of a difference. Yes, we’re in a DPI battle between Amazon, Google, and Apple but we’re getting close to the point where we can’t tell the difference. Which means that the screen is a perfect thing to act as the phone’s “Case” for modularity purposes. The modularity will help immensely with repariability, which current scores pretty low, if you’re interested in those scores check out iFixit.

So, how does Phonebloks come into all of this? They are essentially pulling an IBM by creating a system that can be modular. Google’s Android will be the operating system of choice, but it’s likely that even this could be flexible in the manner that PCs are today. It’s unlikely that iOS will be on these phones legally, although I’m certain someone will figure out a way to install the operating system on these phones. This will hurt Apple in the long run as people will not be using their operating system will leave their ecosystem and prevent them from making as large of revenues in the future. People will still buy their products, but there will be much less sales. Apple could be repeating history if they don’t offer to sell their operating system for phones like this.

Why do I think that these phones are going to be winners? Well, it will increase the longevity of the phone. With phones costing upwards of $600 for the top of the line phone anything that can increase the length of time that a person is using one is a good thing. Secondly, as Android and other OSes evolve they require more capabilities from the phone which means older phones aren’t able to use the latest operating system. Buying a much cheaper CPU to install would be a lot better for end customers. This will also disrupt the supply chain as companies like Qualcomm aren’t used to selling directly to customers. Finally, as long as the design is good, then it won’t seem as much of a burden to have the same phone year in and year out. It will require people to think differently, but that’s something that I believe Motorola and PhoneBloks can over come.

These phones are going to change the industry and possibly enable other companies to develops phones in the same way. Hopefully they pick one standard interface like the Motherboard that all companies conform to. This will allow companies like Google and Microsoft to go back to innovating on operating systems and to get out of the phone building business.

Tools that will help disrupt Healthcare

I’ve been reading this really interesting book on healthcare – it focuses on the potential Hows that healthcare can be disrupted. If you aren’t sure what disruption and/or disruptive innovation is then check out my last blog about some of the industries where it’s occurring and you’re likely part of the disruption.

If you buy your own health insurance you may have noticed a new type of insurance. It was new to me whenever I joined my health insurance company in the North West. Neither AMD nor Samsung had similar plans so when I first signed up for it, I was extremely ignorant of what it was and just signed up for something that looked good. This type of insurance is called HDI w/ HSA.

HDI: High Deductible Insurance. This means that you’ll likely have a high deductible (obviously) and will have to pay out of pocket.
HSA: Healthcare Savings Account. This is an account that allows you and your employer to make pre-tax contributions. You will also be able to pay for healthcare tax-free and accrue interest tax free as well. This is great in terms of how much money you actually gain from this. When you pay for a healthcare service like a Doctor’s visit, you’ll have to pay all $150, however, since you didn’t pay taxes on that $150 you end up saving money. Further, your employer can contribute to this account in the same fashion as your 401(k) and your account will be invested in a similar fashion as a 401 (k).

Of course there are some draw backs to this type of health insurance. First, until you reach your deductible you’re going to end up paying out of pocket. You could potentially have a deductible as high as $5,000 which is highly undesirable. Your employer might not contribute to your account, which places more of the burden on you, which sucks.

How can this contribute to disrupting healthcare? Well, you’re going to start really shopping around for your day to day medical expenses. You’re not going to go to a specialist unless you really think you need to. You’re not going to go straight to the hospital for care. You’re going to try to find another place to get the care you need. This will open up the possibility for care givers to provide healthcare in other fashions. This will potentially change the way that insurers will begin to pay out to providers as well.

There is also a push for Accountable Care Organizations, look for those as well, which are paid based on outcomes rather than the type of service being provided. These organizations will help disrupt incumbent firms and will likely capture the attention of insurance agents. I believe that in many cases this is where a lot of Exchange insurance programs are going.

Personally, I’m excited about the potential to work within an insurance company to disrupt the industry. I believe that there are changes that can be made internally, through educating on what metrics are and how to improve based on these metrics. I also believe that we’ll be in a position to help enable providers to be more efficient and effective care.

Continual disruption – still happening in TV and content

One of my favorite things to read about is innovation. For those of you that know me, that’s not really a surprise. However, I think that there’s a lot of misunderstanding out there about what “disruptive” innovation is. Most people think that apps that modify the way you do something is disruptive. For example, people have said that companies like Kayak and Hipmunk are both disruptors of booking travel. However, the true disruption came from travelocity or orbitz, whichever came first. These sites really did change the way the game was played for booking travel because they essentially cut out both the middleman (travel agents) and the airlines involvement in book flights. Anything beyond that has simply been sustaining innovations. These are innovations that are quickly co-opted by the existing incumbents as it’s possible for them to do that. A more disruptive technology for travel would view the process holistically from the moment you booked the trip to the time to returned home from your completed vacation. The site would need to account for getting you to your destination without any sort of delays. In James Womack’s book Lean Thinking, they point out the “value add” activity of a flight was only 3 hours, while the total waiting time was over 12 and they didn’t include the effort it took to book the trip back in 1995. All inclusive it’s likely to be much worse now. Especially the way that airlines measure “on time departure” (leaving the gate on time) which is different than our “on time departure” (taking off on time).

In a true disruptive situation you’ll typically see the incumbents resorting to changing laws to keep their supremacy of the markets, we don’t see this in travel at all. Where we do see this is in telecom and cable. The image below from Mashable pretty well explains why this is happening.

There’s likely overlap between users of Netflix, Prime, and Hulu, but if I was cable TV I’d be running scared. I also would love to see this graphic if you add Twitch.tv and specifically ESPN. I think eventually twitch will be disrupting ESPN and the traditional sports networks out there.

How are the cable companies using legal and technical mechanism to limit access to content on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Twitch? First, the movie industries have absurd agreements with cable companies (providers) giving their services, like Xfinity from Comcast first access to content. In many cases this will translate into something earlier on the subsidiaries of those in terms of networks. Second, cable providers use their control over the network to throttle the internet speeds of these internet services. This is leading them to try to change the laws around net neutrality so that the cable providers don’t just become “dumb pipes” that content is passed through but the users don’t interact with.

I believe this also indicates that both cable networks and internet providers are being disrupted in a way that they don’t understand. They are using every tool they have at their disposal to fight against the adoption of these services, but they don’t understand what’s happening. Consumers have hired comcast, verizon, and others to provide them a solid consistent connection to whatever content the user wants. Internet providers are trying to force themselves into a middleman role that the users don’t want. When opportunities arise that will allow the user to experience content on their own terms. It’s clear that cable TV is losing the fight and this will only accelerate as people purchase more tablets and devices like that. Chromecast (which allows people to display things from a laptop/tablet on their TV) is another disruption that Google is providing, Amazon has something similar for their Tablets (which will increase Prime usage by the way). The TV companies are losing and need to figure out new business models to stay afloat. This is where disruption is happening. Not in other spaces.