Two innovation methods, Design Thinking and Lean Start Up, discussed at DIS with Alan South

Innovation is difficult, expensive and doesn’t always work… Why on earth do we bother? – asked Alan South, founder of Ripplewood, at the Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin on 24 March. The delegates came back with the expected responses – we do so because, we want to find a better solution, we want to make a difference and we want to survive.

The method of creating innovation is to discover, create, and develop ideas, to refine them into useful forms, and to use them to earn profits, increase efficiency, and/or reduce costs.

At the Summit, Alan explored and explained two modern movements for innovation; Design thinking and Lean Start Up.

Design Thinking is about bringing the methods of the designer into the corporation. Its core principle is to look at it from a human perspective – looking for the right solution to meet the customers’ needs. The design thinker needs to get under the skin of the project – and they need to get close to their customers.

Innovators using the design thinking method have to spend time on user research and asking the customer whether their product/service is meeting all their needs. This research will help then to iterate and refine so that they produce the highest possible quality solution to the unmet customer need.

The Lean Start Up method brings the entrepreneur into the corporation. Unlike the mission above the core principle is embedded from a scientific perspective and it always seeks to avoid waste from creating something no-one wants.

While the two processes in the diagram don’t look too dissimilar, the details behind it, and the processes are very different.

Comparing processes ()

With the Lean Start Up approach the aim is to build a minimum viable product – then take it to the market (ideally to the early adopters) and collect their feedback.

Once you have analysed that feedback, you have three choices in which direction you take next: Pivot, Perservere or Kill.

Pivoting is taking the feedback and realising that the original idea that you had has now changed and you need to iterate your product and develop it in a new direction. Persevering with the product can be the route to creating a successful innovation, though sometimes companies continue to persevere, when in reality they know that they should kill it. Persevering with a product that will ultimately fail can be hugely detrimental. Killing an innovation shouldn’t be seen as negative – positive lessons can still be learned.

If you want to hear more about other innovation processes, Alan delivers learning programmes for senior executives and specialises in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship. He is on the faculty for FIPP and University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School’s Executive Programme for Innovation and Change (EPIC) for senior executive media leaders. To find out more about the course visit or email Christine Huntingford at

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