OneSpring attended the Lean Day West conference on September 16th and 17th. For those of you not familiar with Lean UX or Lean Startup, it’s all about rapid experimentation and prototyping of software applications. It’s about developing applications quickly and learning what works and doesn’t work through user feedback. The goal is to reduce waste by building software through open collaboration with designer, engineers, and customers. This may sound like common sense, but it differs from most software development processes. Lean follows a “make to think” not “think to make” approach to development. Most lean teams quickly sketch ideas on a whiteboard and code those ideas at the same time. Designers and software engineers work side-by-side where they design and build continuously. Learning is achieved by going out into the world and asking target customers for their feedback. Teams make decisions quickly and adapt based on what they learn and either scrap ideas (pivot), or continue forward (persist).
The conference itself was filled with lots of quality presenters from GE, PayPal, Weather Channel, Intuit, and many other companies. While I fully agree with the premise of lean, I feel there’s a missing component that can make it even faster and less costly. Experimenting and learning should occur through rapid visualization as opposed to rapid prototyping. While the premise is the same (i.e. learning by doing) the mechanisms and skill sets are a little different. Lean relies on not only designers but also on software engineers to be involved. Rapid visualization relies on designers and stakeholders. Although having engineers involved would be nice, it’s not always possible. Also, you can move much faster using rapid visualization. With this said, I do believe there are similarities between the two methods such as sketching ideas on paper or whiteboard and open collaboration. However, if we can learn faster, isn’t that better? Learn through visualization then use prototyping based on your findings. In this case, I believe you can use visualization to filter good ideas from bad ideas faster and more efficiently. I don’t discount the power of lean; I think it’s working for many companies. However, I feel adding visualization to the approach can make it even stronger.