Archive | December 2015

Best of @leanvoodoo 2015

This is a list of the most read articles of 2015. Enjoy!

















Thank you for your time and support!

See you in 2016!


Innovation: Begin with the end in mind

Ford horse

Henry Ford knew this very well back in the 1930s: great innovation begins with the end in mind.

Innovation is about implementing new ideas for simple solutions in order to generate value for customers (learn more here). Keeping the end in mind is key for innovation because it forces you to think how to create value. It’s all about thinking the perfect solution, also known as Ideal Final Result (IFR). The IFR is the description of the best possible solution for a problem without caring about resources or constraints. Idealization is the mental process that imagines that IFR and concentrates in finding real value and not in eliminating problems or effects. Let’s see the lawn mower example:

140704_EM_GreeninguptheGrass_1If we think about a lawn mower, it is easy to find room for improvement: they are noisy, they use fuel, they have potentially dangerous blades, they need maintenance. We could work hard to improve all these things to create a better product. That’s the classic (not IFR) approach which focuses in problems and effects.

However, using idealization, we must concentrate in customer value. What does the customer want? A lawn mower? No. People don’t buy lawn mowers, they buy perfect grass. The Ideal Final Result is beautiful and splendid grass, no matter how you get it. Artificial grass, real grass that does not grow or selling your backyard are solutions that fit perfectly well here. You have probably noticed that we are not talking about lawn mowers anymore. That’s really the point of using IFR: it opens your mind to a broader range of ideas.

The use of idealization / IFR starts with perfection and looks for ways to eliminate barriers (real or perceived) that prevent us from reaching that ideal state. It is like a kids maze game: we start from the prize and move backwards.


Warning! The search of an Ideal Final Result does not mean that you have to ignore your customer’s opinions and preferences. It’s just the opposite: your knowledge about the customer must be so deep that you can clearly differentiate creating value (what the customer really wants) from just solving problems.

Pictures from:

Innovation and environment

Environment and innovationIt is almost impossible to overemphasize the effect of environment in innovation. Yes, some people have that special thing that makes them incredibly creative, but even the most talented team will fail if it is surrounded by risk aversion and fear to failure. The good news is that the opposite is also true, everybody has creative potential if the environment is favorable.

There are 3 main environmental states:

  • Unfavorable environment: Only results matter. The motto is “if you fail, you’re fired”.
  • Neutral environment: Failure is accepted. The motto is “it’s okay to make mistakes”.
  • Favorable environment: Trial and error to maximize learning. The motto is “use all available opportunities to learn”
The conditions for innovation are adverse if results are the only important thing. Nobody will risk or try because there is no benefit is doing so. The safe option is doing anything it takes to get the expected results. This, of course, includes cheating, hiding information (especially problems) and the consequence are very slow learning cycles. No innovation is possible.
Moving from adverse to neutral conditions has a great positive effect: trying is not dangerous anymore. The system has stopped killing people’s initiative and the idea of “doing nothing is better than trying because at least you don’t fail” is no longer valid. However, innovation is not just about trying anything without much thinking, it needs structure. It’s about creating value through learning. Sometimes creating thinking structures is confused with killing ideas, but they are very different things. Thinking structures force you to think, help you design useful tests and speed up learning cycles. Killing ideas is just treating people as if they could not think by themselves: no listening, knowledge is not shared, testing is forbidden.
Moving from neutral to favorable conditions means promoting structured learning: evaluate risks, understand effort/benefit balance, design experiments that maximize learning, validate ideas with customers, keep the end in mind. Yes, all that means getting results in the most effective way.
Results are the consequence of innovation, not its enemy.