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Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup Methodologies: What they are and how to use them.

The terms “Design-Driven”, “Lean Startup, and “Agile” are thrown around all the time in the startup and technology industries. I often hear people refer to these methods, not seeming to be able to differentiate between them, or even be able to explain what each is. Here’s my attempt at giving you a real understanding on these terms and how they can be used in an app, idea, startup, etc.


Agile is the strategy of working in an iterative manner on the development, testing, and review. Agile is most often used in app or software development and is based on a clear idea of the end product and its target audience.

Instead of development based on implementing all of the wanted features, agile takes the approach of successfully conquering the most valuable or necessary features first.

Agile tends to be all about creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), working in sprints of development, followed by testing and iteration. The entire concept is to get your app or idea to market as quickly as possible, in a manner that allows for constant feedback so you can adapt and figure out what future features are actually wanted by your audience.

Basically, through agile you create a very solid base of your app/software that works properly and then perfect through iteration.

Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup Methodologies: What they are and how to use them. 1 | THRV Apps, Design, Digital Marketing & Strategy

Source: Medium

Design Thinking

Similar to Agile, Design Thinking is also an iterative process. With Design Thinking you seek to actually understand your target user’s needs, challenge your initial assumptions regarding their needs, and get a deep understanding of possible problems, all in an attempt to learn and implement these new findings into your product.

Rather than focusing on brainstorming what you believe are good ideas, Design Thinking focuses on brainstorming and fully understanding what the user’s pains or problems are. The phases include:

  • Empathize with your current/possible users
  • Clearly define your users’ needs and problems
  • Challenge assumptions and create innovative solutions
  • Create a prototype of these innovative solutions
  • Test, get feedback, iterate

Keep in mind that these phases are not always done in order and can be done in parallel.  The point of them is to achieve the same goal: creating solutions to the problems that your users actually find important.

Lean Startup

The Lean Startup provides a “scientific” approach to creating and managing startups in a manner that allows you to get a desired product to your users’ as fast as possible.  The entire concept is based on the concept of working smarter, not harder, and figuring out IF the product should be built, not HOW.

Originally introduced by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup, his mission was to help companies navigate and minimize risks through minimum viable products (MVP’s), extensive experimentation, and a commitment to innovation and learning.

The core of the lean startup methodology is all about creating a sustainable business with the minimum amount of both money and time. “Build, Measure, Learn” – repeatedly with the aspiration to turn your MVP to a successful business.

Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup Methodologies: What they are and how to use them. 2 | THRV Apps, Design, Digital Marketing & Strategy

Intelligently Combining, Visualized

  • Start with Design Thinking – empathize, define and ideate your customer’s problems
  • Turn your idea into possible business models by following the Lean Startup method
  • Build and launch the product, updating and perfecting through Agile development
Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup Methodologies: What they are and how to use them. 3 | THRV Apps, Design, Digital Marketing & Strategy

Source: Gartner

So.. Should You Combine?

I know the truth is tough to swallow, but over 90% of startups fail because they develop products that no one wants.  Properly combining these three methodologies can be the difference between you being amongst the failures and actually creating a successful venture.

As you’ve seen, all three strategies put the target users first, adapting to their wants and needs.  The feedback you receive gives you confidence in your products purpose and need in the marketplace. Although these concepts basically go against what most people have traditionally applied to the creation of businesses, times continuously change and in order to succeed you have to learn to adapt to the latest concepts

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