New products and services come and go in today’s market, which is extremely competitive and demanding today. The risks that are involved in launching a product are great and, often, teams focus much more on the solution than on the problem, which must be very well analyzed from different perspectives of action.
And that’s where Lean Inception comes in. But what is it in the first place?
What is Lean Inception and How Does it Work?
Lean Inception is a method applied through a collaborative workshop, created by Paulo Caroli, which combines concepts from Design Thinking and Lean Startup to attack a problem in the simplest and most viable way possible with the ultimate goal of defining the MVP to be launched, creating an evolution plan in view of the real needs that arise with people’s experience of using the product.
MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product (or Minimum Viable Product, in English) and is the most viable and simple version of a product to introduce it to the market and validate ideas and hypotheses related to the value of this product. The MVP validation serves to generate new ideas regarding how to increase this product so that it continues to meet the needs of its users, as shown below:
But how can I create a quality MVP?
A Minimum Viable Product should always be at the intersection between: feasible, valuable and usable. That is, it must add value to the users of the product and also to the business, it must be feasible with the technical tools available, and it must be usable according to the users’ needs, in addition to being in full operation to be inserted in the market. That is, it should not be a prototype. This is because a prototype of a product is just a simulation of the real idea and the concepts that surround it, and should be used in the planning and primary testing phases of the product.
Therefore, Lean Inception can help a company to build a well-structured MVP to validate or not some hypotheses about the product, the market and the users. Furthermore, it is possible to obtain real product usage data quickly and spending less money for it.
Assumptions can be an important factor for a product. Sometimes, we do an MVP to solve an initial problem and, during product testing, it is found that that solution does not solve that problem, but others identified during validation, which may be more valuable than the initial one. This is the act of pivoting a product, that is, changing its focus to continue responding positively to the market.
Cool! But how to apply Lean Inception?
The Lean Inception dynamic continues for 5 days in collaboration with participants from different professional areas, in the morning and afternoon. It is composed of Kick-off, Product Vision, “Is / Isn’t – Does / Doesn’t”, Product Objectives, Personas, User Journey, Feature Brainstorming, Technical / Business / UX Review, Feature Sequencer, and Canvas MVP.
- Kick off
Lean Inception starts with the Kick-off, in which stakeholders present and explain the problem or challenge to be explored during the days, with the aim of aligning all participants on this and on the week’s agenda. It is also at this moment that the participants introduce themselves to everyone involved.
- Product Vision
After the Kick-off, the first activity of the Lean Inception dynamic begins: Product Vision. This activity proposes a framework, which is a predetermined structure, so that all those involved define what is the essence of the product to be built, that is, what is the vision of a future state that a certain group has about the idealized product.
Thus, the predetermined structure of the activity in question is composed of: “For (end customer), whose (problem to be solved) requires a (type of product or category) that provides (benefits). Unlike (competition), our product has (product differentials).”
In this activity, participants will give their different views on the product in question, contributing with some ideas to then define the product vision together, thus leaving everyone on the same page.
- Is / Isn’t / Does / Doesn’t
Often, with digital products, it’s easier to say what they are and what they do. However, defining what they don’t do is as important as deciding what they actually do.
So the third activity is where everyone should idealize what the product is and what it isn’t, what it does and what it doesn’t. It serves to align all participants to the product and classify it according to the positive and negative points of its operation as soon as it is built.
- Product Objectives
The fourth activity is the one in which participants must speak individually about what they understand as a goal for the business, that is, what the business should seek with the product. Once all the points of view are discussed, the participants must group the ideas and then define some macro objectives of the product. It is important that the definition of the product’s objective is done in a well-thought-out and strategic way in order to prevent the project from encountering certain difficulties in the future, such as when the product is ready to be validated with real people.
The guiding question in this activity is: if you had to summarize the product in three objectives for the business, what would they be?
Every product has users and each type of user corresponds to a certain mapped persona. Persona is the representation of the ideal customer of a company or a product, and is based on quantitative and qualitative research with real people.
Persona mapping is one of the most important artifacts of a product and is essential to ensure that decision-making for product improvements meets the needs of all user profiles that may use the product or service in question.
Continuing the Lean Inception activities, participants must produce at least one persona that ideally represents the potential users of the product to be built. This activity will also help define the features of the product or service, since it is these personas who will come into contact and interact with the final product in order to solve a problem.
- User Journey
We all have a journey and an aggregated experience when we use a certain product or service, whether physical or digital. Do you remember that time you went to try to cancel a purchase and got frustrated?
We build user journeys of a product or service in order to map positive, negative and pain points regarding the use of the product, linking it with the necessary functionalities to solve the problem. These journeys must always be built aiming at a good experience, so that people continue to use the product and build trust in it.
For this Lean Inception activity, participants will build a user journey that describes a sequence of steps that a user must go through to reach a certain goal. This journey will show the mapping of points of contact that users will have when using the product, and will help with the next activity, which is Functionalities Brainstorming.
- Functionality Brainstorming
In each and every type of product or service, users need to perform some type of action or interaction to achieve a defined objective or to solve a problem. These actions or interactions are known as features of a product.
In this activity, Lean Inception participants should talk and discuss what users are trying to do and, thus, collaboratively define what the functionalities of the product to be built will be. The functionalities must be described in a simple and objective way, in order to meet a business objective and a need of the persona and the journey mapped to the product.
With this, the participants must finish the activity with a list of general functionalities idealized for the product. However, each feature requires added efforts to actually implement it in the MVP, and these efforts will be analyzed in the next activity.
- Technical, Business and UX Review
Each functionality of a product will perform an action or have an interaction with the user in order for it to reach its final objective.
In this activity, the functionalities of a digital product must be analyzed based on the minimum technical effort, that is, it must have a low complexity of implementation and knowledge; understanding what will generate value for the business; and what will generate value for the user experience (also known by the acronym UX, User Experience in English), which will perceive this value in the form of satisfaction in using the product.
This Lean Inception activity helps to start prioritizing features based on essential criteria such as technical effort, business value and user experience value, since an MVP is the initial, simplest and most economically viable version of a product about to be launched on the market. Therefore, this activity also makes the participants think about how to simplify the construction of the product by selecting the functionalities that are really essential for the users and the business.
- Feature Sequencer
With the features mapped and analyzed, the activity in question continues prioritizing them to then define the feature sequencer, which is the definition and organization of the incremental rounds in the MVP release. That is, participants must distribute the analyzed features based on a sequence of increments for the MVP, so that efforts for the first release are focused on a logical and hierarchical sequence, separating essential features from incremental features to the product and the user experience.
- Canvas MVP
Finally, as the last activity of the Lean Inception workshop, the Canvas MVP is a deliverable for consolidating all the workshop activities carried out, addressing collaborative ideations along with other aspects about the product, namely: segmented personas, MVP proposal, expected results, journeys, features, cost and schedule, and validation metrics.
The Canvas MVP aims to align those involved in the workshop, as well as possible investors of the product, on the final strategy defined for the MVP through the presentation of this deliverable, thus making it possible for the client to leave the workshop with all the necessary information about the product to start a real project.
Lean Inception is a good approach for those who are still in the process of defining and building a product, for those who have questions about features or about the strategy for launching and implementing the product, in addition to monitoring and validating the idea with real people.
At ELDORADO, we have teams highly trained in collaborative workshop techniques such as Lean Inception, in addition to the Consulting team to help with the digital acceleration of our clients in the most varied problems and contexts. By uniting the technical knowledge available at ELDORADO together with the Lean Inception dynamics, it is possible to discover, idealize and experiment with solutions that encourage creative thinking, articulating innovation and creating value for end users and our customers, making it possible to place the product on the market for validation with real people and for its subsequent increments.