Combine learning and doing to create better products more quickly
Every company is wanting faster innovation, yet they often have systems that actually slow and limit innovation. The framework and systems needed are a topic of a new book written by our guest, Katherine Radeka, and titled High Velocity Innovation: How to Get Your Best Ideas to Market Faster.
The foreword to the book was written by the SVP of Product Design and Engineering at Keurig Dr Pepper, who shared that this book is for you “If you strive for more relevant innovation or want to outpace your competition.” That’s a good endorsement, and in our discussion, Katherine shares her innovation framework to make that happen
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:13] Can you give us an example of how a company has used High Velocity Innovation?
Sun Power is a company known for making very efficient solar panels. Their product development process is infused with High Velocity Innovation. They can recognize which decisions need to be made well because they can’t be revisited later, and when those decisions need to be made. The ability to recognize when decisions need to be made has helped them accelerate product development. A lot of innovation programs get stuck because we make decisions too early and then get stuck in rework loops when new information comes in. To me, that’s a sign the right decision is not being made at the right time.
[5:41] What are the roots of this system?
Ten years ago, I was working as a Lean product development consultant, but I also have a background in Agile. Companies came to me asking if we could combine ideas from Lean and Agile to improve the “fuzzy front end” of product development and help get the right products to market more quickly. I was working with four different companies and trying things at each one. The roots of the rapid learning cycle framework emerged from that work. We looked at where Agile was working and where the assumptions were breaking down. We also found that one of the things that was missing was a core hypothesis that comes from the Lean Startup framework.
[12:53] What are Rapid Learning Cycles?
They’re designed for things that have high uncertainty and high cost of change. The decisions we make in product development are not easily changed. The Rapid Learning Cycles framework is intended to help teams understand what decisions they need to make, when they need to make them, who needs to be involved, and what data they need to make informed decisions. We prioritize learning early and making decisions later so there’s less opportunity for error and less likelihood of needing to redo something later.
[17:51] How does the Rapid Learning Cycles approach differ from a sprint-based model?
Traditionally, in an Agile-based organization, they’re going to be focused on code to achieve specific tasks. It’s much more difficult to do that in the hardware space because everything is interconnected. We focus on learning what you need to build a better system. At the end of the project, an Agile group will come together to talk about what work they accomplished, while a Rapid Learning Cycle group will come together to discuss what they learned and what they need to learn in the next cycle.
[21:48] Where does strategy fit into this framework?
The most important thing strategy does is helps pull innovation out of the organization. It tells people in the organization what to be looking for. For example, Sony’s decision to go into pro audio gave everyone on their team the opportunity to see how their own work might fit into that market. It helps everyone focus and be creative when they are coming up with new ideas.
[25:29] What team structure needs to be in place?
Innovation is one of the most cross-functional things an organization does. Everyone from marketing to supply chain needs to be part of it. Having a variety of roles involved will help them discover knowledge gaps early on and make sure resources are in place to fill them. A program manager acts like a coach, focusing on stakeholder management and things like the ideation toolkit. The leader needs to guide the team to use those tools effectively to close the team’s knowledge gaps.
- Katherine’s website, High Velocity Innovation
- The book, High Velocity Innovation: How to Get Your Best Ideas to Market Faster
“It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than it is to think your way into a new way of acting.” – Millard Fuller, Founder, Habitat for Humanity
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.