Any forward-thinking business must master the challenge of leveraging emerging technologies such as immersive reality and conversational AI to deliver customer-centric experiences while managing risk. One of the ways organizations do so is to create in-house innovation centers dedicated to exploration and experimentation. But for too long, businesses have lacked a unified process to validate and deliver new product ideas in an empathetic, cost-efficient way. Popular approaches such as design thinking address only parts of the product development lifecycle, such as initial ideation and prototyping. Product teams have lacked a process to discover, design and deliver lovable experiences at scale. Until now.

Moonshot’s scalable Future Unified Experience Lifecycle methodology, or FUEL, accelerates business growth by emphasizing the connection with customers first.  All businesses are faced with emerging digital existential threats, and our FUEL methodology mitigates the risk and cost of addressing these threats, while promoting customer-centric priorities.  The methodology combines the outcomes of design thinking and lean innovation with rapid fit-based delivery.  By focusing on properly scaled digital ideas, products, platforms and ecosystems using a minimum lovable product mindset, FUEL guides the promise of growth through digital channels.

Let’s break down FUEL’s two main components, design thinking and lean innovation.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is an ideal process for solving complex, open-ended problems that don’t have a “right” answer – which is why design thinking works so well with product innovation. Through design thinking, businesses identify the right problem to solve by gaining empathy for the user, create and consider many options, refine selected directions, create prototypes, and validate the prototypes through user testing.

For instance, a team seeking to understand how to deliver a lovable voiced-based experience might ask, “What kind of consumer problem am I trying to solve – and how do I think conversational artificial intelligence might solve that problem?”

Product teams employing design thinking explore possible solutions by applying tools such as five-day design sprints. Google Ventures has popularized the use of the design sprint to explore, experiment, and validate new concepts with users. With design sprints, product teams create and test prototypes within a five-day time frame, as outlined by Google Ventures:

  • Monday: identify a problem to solve and pick an important place to focus
  • Tuesday: create competing solutions to the problem
  • Wednesday: decide on the best idea to turn into a testable hypothesis
  • Thursday: build a realistic prototype
  • Friday: test the prototype with target customers

The accelerated nature of a design sprint in context of design thinking gives teams a disciplined way to make go/no go decisions on nascent product ideas without requiring costly and time-consuming testing.

Design thinking produces ideas for solving problems rooted in customer empathy. Such insight helps a business create a prototype for a minimum lovable product (MLP) – the version of the product that creates maximum customer love with the least amount of effort and expense.

But the prototype needs to be developed into a real product, which design thinking does not account for.

Lean Innovation

Design thinking, when done right, ensures that a business points its product delivery process at the right problem based on a customer validated prototype. But design thinking alone does not result in lovable products that achieve scale. To design and launch products that fulfill their potential, businesses need to complement design thinking with lean innovation.

With lean innovation, cross-functional teams collaborate on holistic product design in an iterative, agile fashion. Teams collaborate to:

  • Create an actual MLP based on the prototype created during design thinking
  • Create a real product for commercial application

Leveraging the working models of the agile development mindset, lean innovation teams collaborate across product, design, and engineering to move into the blueprint, build and test rhythm of scrum delivery. Then, as the product takes shape and is positioned for market, the lean innovation process ensures the MLP is set up for success by surrounding it with the right people, processes, and governance. Lean innovation helps businesses scale the idea to a digital product and, as appropriate, platform and ecosystem.

Lean innovation is not the same as agile development, in which teams collaborate on design and development in an iterative fashion. Lean innovation includes agile principles while also including a broader focus on people, processes and governance as well as go-to-market strategies and communications.

Design thinking and lean innovation, when combined under FUEL, helps businesses address seemingly impossible problems such as identifying unmet needs and acting on them. Here is a quick way to understand how design thinking and lean innovation complement each other under FUEL:

  • Design thinking for ideation and observation: design thinking to explore and validate the unmet needs of humans within a specific context, resulting in the MLP prototype
  • Lean innovation for delivering and scaling: lean innovation to move from ideas to digital products in a continuous process that requires product managers, designers and engineers to collaborate from inception to completion

The point where design thinking and lean innovation come together is around fit. Fit represents the customer-centric focus of FUEL, making sure that the ideas, concepts, and products are meeting the needs of real people. Every design thinking cycle results in dedicated time to validate, iterate, and test low-fidelity-to-high-fidelity manifestations of the experience with the target consumer. Every lean innovation cycle results in a minimum lovable product that elegantly fits in new or existing markets for consumers. Learnings spur additional design thinking and lean innovation cycles.

The outcome of applying FUEL:

Businesses deliver lovable products to market more frequently and with higher quality, while managing cost and risk – in other words, continuous velocity that achieves breakthrough customer-centric innovation.

Moonshot developed FUEL based on our work with large companies that are committed to customer-centric innovation. Typically, we act as an acceleration partner to help companies explore and experiment through empathy-based workshops. Contact Moonshot. We connect people to lovable experiences today and tomorrow.

Meanwhile, to dig deeper into the elements of FUEL, check out these Moonshot blog posts:

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product