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I gave a talk at the Chicago Product Management Association together with Pathfinder Software’s Amy Willis and Reid MacTavish on the lessons we’ve learned in integrating Lean Startup, User Experience Design and Agile Development. Here are the slides from the talk – a video recording will follow soon.

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Bernhard Kappe, Pathfinder’s CEO, gave a talk at the new healthcare startup accelerator Healthbox, and tailored his Lean Startup presentation for medical innovators.

Healthbox is a new Chicago based healthcare centric accelerator program that started it’s inaugural class of ten startups earlier in January. For three months, these teams will share space and ideas in Chicago, where they will push toward the next stage of development.

The principles of the Lean Startup Method apply to any innovator developing a new product or business with extreme uncertainty indifferent to the size of the project or industry. The healthcare industry has significant change on the horizon and stakeholders hungry for the solutions of tomorrow, there has never been a better time for innovation and collaboration. Using customer development and experiments with fast feedback loops can help to guide medical trailblazers toward valuable solutions for all the stakeholders in the field.

Consider this the opening volley in our campaign for Lean Branding, the argument that branding has to follow the same course as customer and product development. More on this later. First a good argument on why you shouldn’t just plaster your brand over any and every aspect of your app or webapp.

Jonathan Anderson has a great post over at UX Magazine entitled Your Logo Is Making Me Sick. In it he argues that using a company’s logo or brand as the most striking part of a critical failure or error message is a common self inflicted wound and should be avoided.

Years ago, my mother got a nasty case of food poisoning from an order of chicken tikka at a restaurant. For years after that, if I’d sneak up behind her and say, “Chicken tikka!” she’d crumple into a bout of dry heaves.

Funny and informative. Give it a read.


The innovation engine in most companies is broken, burning large quantities of fuel, generating lots of heat and smoke, but doing precious little to accelerate company growth beyond a few sputtering lurches.

Most efforts to boost innovation focus on generating or capturing new ideas. Yet for most companies, this is not where the problem lies. Instead the problem lies in determining which of those ideas can be successfully scaled into profitable new lines of business. Most companies place big bets on the wrong ideas for the wrong reasons. As a consequence, 9 out of 10 new products fail.

We’ve been collaborating with a number of large enterprises who are pioneering the use of lean startup techniques to make better investment decisions and reduce the risks of new product failure. Through this work, a new model has started to emerge that promises to turbocharge enterprise innovation efforts to generate explosive growth.

Next Sunday at Tech Week, Chicago’s largest digital innovation conference, I’ll be sharing some of our lessons learned in a talk titled Building a Better Enterprise Innovation Engine.

Here’s what I’ll cover:

  • How a lean innovation approach provides a more efficient way to determine which ideas merit further development and to rapidly bring the right ones to product/market fit.
  • How business model analysis, rapid cycles of hypothesis testing using minimal experiments and feedback from real customers can help you decide when to pivot, when to persevere, and when to allocate your innovation budget to other ideas.
  • How to manage an innovation portfolio to maximize returns
  • How to staff an innovation department

If you’re interested, you can sign up at Techweek – the lineup of speakers is very impressive. You can use discount code twspeakers_30 to save $115 on admission.

If you’re unable to attend but would like to find out more, drop us a line.

Pathfinder’s CEO Bernhard Kappe assembled a panel for last weeks AITP Spring Technology Conference focusing on how large enterprises are employing lean startup principles to improve innovation outcomes.

The panelists included:

Jorgen Hesselberg, Senior Manager, Agile Enterprise Adoption, Nokia
Greg Healy, Chief Product Officer, Encyclopedia Britannica
Brian Chau, Director of Product Innovation, Wheels, Inc.

The videos are now available on the Pathfinder vimeo channel.

Current innovation best practices focus heavily on different ways of generating ideas for new products. Yet for most companies, this is not where the problem lies. The problem lies in determining which of those ideas can be successfully scaled into profitable new lines of business. Most companies place big bets on the wrong ideas for the wrong reasons. As a result, 9 out of 10 new products fail.

The Lean Startup approach to innovation provides a more efficient way to determine which ideas merit further development and to rapidly bring the right ones to product/market fit. Business model analysis, rapid cycles of hypothesis testing using minimal experiments and feedback from real customers can help you decide when to pivot, when to persevere, and when to allocate your innovation budget to other ideas.

By combining lean startup principles with appropriate staffing of innovation departments and a portfolio strategy based on innovation accounting, enterprises can generate more successful products faster with fewer costly misses.

Watch the video for real world examples of how to implement lean practices at an established corporation.  

Your job as an innovator is to discover a product and model that works before you run out of time and money. 9 out of 10 new products fail. So fail faster, fail cheaper. So use Fast Innovation with Lean + UX + Agile to iterate and pivot your product and model to success. Join us for a half day workshop on January 20th, 2012 to experience what fast innovation can do for you.

Pathfinder Software’s Amy Willis (UX) Bernhard Kappe (Products Strategy) and Reid MacTavish (Agile Development) share their lessons learned in using lean+ux+agile to deliver software products that customers want and will pay for.

They’ll cover:

  • Pragmatic Marketing and Lean Startup- which is right for you?
  • Lean UX – Design as the differential gear between customer development and agile development
  • How to run a successful inception
  • It’s never too early for metrics and analytics
  • Agile practices and pitfalls
  • Continuous deployment and A/B testing
  • Team composition and how to hire

If you’d like to join us, you can rsvp here: http://pathfinderleanux.eventbrite.com/

Lean + UX + Agile.

Lean Startup, User Experience Design and Agile Development are all approaches to improve your odds of creating successful products. Are they mutually exclusive, or can you assemble them together to make a lean, mean product machine?

In November Pathfinder’s Bernhard Kappe, Amy Willis and Reid MacTavish gave a sold out talk at the Chicago Product Management Association to share their lessons learned in making products with Lean + UX + Agile methodology. We have produced a video of the event including the slides with a narrative voice over for your enjoyment. If you’d like to view the presentation on slideshare, you can do so here.

We’re extending this into a half day workshop on January 20th that goes into practical details on how to make lean startup work.

We will cover:

  • Pragmatic Marketing and Lean Startup- which is right for you?
  • Lean UX – Design as the differential gear between customer development and agile development
  • How to run a successful inception
  • It’s never too early for metrics and analytics
  • Agile practices and pitfalls
  • Continuous deployment and A/B testing
  • Team composition and how to hire

If you’d like to join us, you can rsvp here: http://pathfinderleanux.eventbrite.com/

How To Do Customer Interviews.
Pathfinder CEO Bernhard Kappe and Broker Savant’s Todd Wyder talk on how to do problem and solution interviews at the Chicago Lean Startup Circle.

Too many entrepreneurs follow the “Field of Dreams” approach to product development. As entrepreneurs we hear a little voice in our head, and it says “if you build it, they will come”.

Maybe the voice is right. Maybe it is wrong. Either way interviewing your potential customers will give you significant insight into developing your product or service if you ask the right questions. The difference between asking questions, and asking the right questions is huge. Asking the right questions can make all the difference. You can build the the most innovative, technically sound product imaginable, but unless you validate that the product is something that consumers want all your effort is pointless.

Watch this video to avoid the critical mistakes that most first timers make, and get the most out of your interviews.

Customer interviews are a critical step in the lean startup methodology. Get them right, and you’re on the way to increasing the chances of your new ventures success. Get them wrong, and you’re likely to wander in the wilderness until you run out of time and money.

We’ve also put the presentation on Slideshare: How to Do Customer Interviews

In September I did an interview with Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, at the Chicago Lean Startup Circle.

Pathfinder’s Bernhard Kappe Interviews Eric Ries on the Lean Startup.

Eric was in fine form – funny, engaging, with self deprecating humor, great stories and insights. If you’re involved in innnovation, either at a startup or a large organization, I think reading the book and watching the video will be great food for thought.

Thanks RIM! Playbook for testing
Creative Commons License photo credit: codepo8

RIM is putting the remaining stock of it’s BlackBerry Playbooks on clearance for $299. This is after HP engaged in a rummage sale of both it’s new and refurbished WebOS tablets. What are buyers running on the hacked devices? That’s right, Android.

That’s now two major players who have thrown up their hands rather than compete. For Microsoft it means a long uphill climb against two established competitors. Nokia won’t help MS much here, once Android squishes their existing phones out of the developing world marketplace.

So what will MS have to do to establish a toehold? One or both of two things:

  1. Hope that their aspirationally dubbed phones really are "super" and have something that people really can’t live without. Teleportation?
  2. Are able to run Android apps out of the box but offer some better functionality or experience than the Android devices.

Given that MS hasn’t set the world on fire with it’s previous mobile product development efforts (is anyone doing real customer research over there?), I wouldn’t hold my breath.