It can be all too easy to get stuck in the trap of Plan – Do – Study, Study, Study…
In Innovation Engineering we follow the process of PDSA (Plan – Do - Study – Act) to keep our innovative ideas moving quickly towards development. This is grounded in the teachings of Dr. W. Edwards Deming.
In an innovation project we do this is to mitigate risks or what we call ‘Death Threats.’ - Things that could kill our idea before we invest money in development.
Here is an example of what the process would look like:
Death Threat (Something that could kill the idea): Customers won’t find our idea meaningful and unique.
Plan (Desired Outcome): 80% of customers that provided feedback will agree that the idea is meaningful and unique.
Do: Send out a survey to 100 existing and potential customers to get their thoughts on the idea and their intent to buy.
Study: What did we learn from the survey?
Act: Based on what we learned, can we move the idea forward another day or should we kill it?
The trap that people often fall into when working on a new idea, is to get stuck studying.
“We just need a bit more data.” – There have been countless times when we’ve heard this.
This can lead to huge project delays and essentially the idea being put on the back burner because it has timed out.
When an idea loses momentum due to this “Study Trap,” it can be really challenging to bring it back to life months or years later.
Here are two reasons why you shouldn’t allow this to happen:
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are working through these cycles:
What could you do to break this down and run quick PDSA cycles?
Your mind might naturally go somewhere like this: “We should develop the technology and test it with 500 people in the specific generation segment and see if we can get 80% adoption. That way we can reduce our risk before we roll it out to the world” – This sounds good in theory, but it will take a very long time and you might find out that your new idea is a no-go after spending time, energy, money and resources to build it. This type of testing would absolutely be applicable in the later stages of development when you are looking for feedback on the functional product. At the beginning you should be focused on cheap and rapid learning.
What would be a few faster, cheaper options?
All you need to prove is that the Death Threat won’t kill your idea. It’s ok if it makes your idea hard to do. True innovation is always hard at first, but you’ve learned that your idea can be done as far as this specific Death Threat goes.
Once all of the Death Threats have been mitigated and you’ve got your PDSA cycles to back them up, you are ready to make your Go/No Go decision for development.
One of the other benefits of reducing your risk this way is in the presentation to your leadership team. When an executive says “Our elderly customers would never adopt a technology like this.” – Instead of back-peddling, you can say:
“I appreciate you bringing that up. We actually considered that in the beginning and here are the three things we did to mitigate that risk and what we learned. Based on that, are you also comfortable calling that risk mitigated, or is there something else you’d like to see?”
The PDSA method keeps things moving quickly in your projects and can greatly reduce your innovation risk.
If you’d like to learn more, let’s chat!