How will UX and Design thinking influence how executives fund product development in the future?

How will UX and Design thinking influence how executives fund product development in the future?

Design thinking has been around for a while. UX has been around for a long time. 

Human-centered engineering was being talked about even when I went to university a long, long time ago, but it seems that the world has cottoned on to the whole idea of discovery.


In UX, one of the patterns is Lean UX from Joshua Seiden and Jeff Gothelf. There’s a couple of different versions of design thinking out there. One from Stanford and one from IDEO. 

All pretty much have the same ethos:

How can we really fill the funnel with work in product development when we don’t have that much confidence that we’re going to get the value?

Treat ideas as assumptions to be validated

A lot of the time people build business cases for some piece of product development, that they’re going to earn so many millions, that they are going to build it in this market. All sorts of wonderful things. 

Really clever executives treat a lot of the ideas as assumptions that need to be validated.

In particular, the Lean Start-up started this maybe 10 or more years ago by saying what is quality if you don’t know who the customer is

One more time: what is quality if you don’t know who the customer is?

The idea was why would you build a high quality, full-fledged product? Why would you fill your funnel with all that stuff when actually we haven’t validated whether people actually want that idea, whether they want that product?

Minimum viable product (MVP)

People have used minimum viable product as well, and it has become a little bit distorted. 

It has turned into: 

  • what is the worst product we can deliver in the timeframe?


  • what’s the least amount of work we need to do to learn the next most important thing?.

The learning revolution in the sea of agility

I think learning is the big change. I see a wave in the sea of agility at the moment from delivery to discovery to delivery or discovery to not delivery, to find the ideas that you should not build. 

One of the reasons why the Lean Start-up came about was as a reaction to the .com bubble burst. 

10 years before Lean Start-up came out, people had been raising loads of venture capital money and burning loads of money. I remember people used to have bragging rights for how much money they raised and burning hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The idea when the Lean Start-up came along was why do you have to burn all this money? Why don’t we just do really cheap experiments to figure out if people even want this?

Why don’t we just do really cheap experiments to figure out if people even want this?
  • Are these the right customers? 
  • Are these the right users? 
  • Will they pay for this? 

Maybe the price point that we have in mind is $15 but the customer may only be prepared to pay 15 cents, or maybe they want it to be free. 

Maybe it’s the wrong solution. Maybe the market isn’t ready yet. Maybe we need to do something more complete.

If you have lots of evidence as an executive that we should build this product and all the ideas within the product, you should just build it. 

But the reality is that there will be lots of ideas in your product where you won’t really have that much confidence about whether you’re going to harvest the value.

They might seem like good idea. But as an executive, you do not want to put those ideas out there and it’s like crickets and tumble weed and nothing happens. You’re left wondering why did customers not come to my product? 

The modern approach

These days executives need to: 

  • be talking more regularly to customers, end users;
  • visiting all the markets; AND
  • Seeing customers in the eye. 

I know we live in a distributed world now, but going out, visiting people, really understanding what’s going on beyond the Teams and Zoom calls, try to get informal conversations where you really find out what’s going on. 

Understand what the customers are really looking for and listen to what customers are complaining about, ask better questions like what are your coping strategies at the moment? Do you have viable workarounds? 

When customers complain about things, that doesn’t necessarily mean they need you to deliver a solution. We have lots and lots of ideas but I think between 60 and 90% of those ideas should never be built. You will discover lots of better ideas by accident if you run cheap experiments to find out… is there value here?

Between 60 and 90% of those ideas should never be built.

Experiment example

The guy in Zappos who wanted to figure out if women would buy expensive shoes online. He built a beautiful website. It was lovely, but there was nothing behind it. When somebody ordered, he just received an email, went out to the store, bought the shoes, packed it up in Zappos packaging and sent it off by FedEx to the customer.

He didn’t lose his shirt, he didn’t burn millions building a big fulfillment system. 

He did validate the idea. 

Women with expensive taste and shoes did buy shoes online and they didn’t just return them after parting one night. They were honest and there was a general pattern of ethical customers buying high quality products, branded products on his website.

Concluding remarks

These are the kind of experiments you need to do before you lose your shirt or your blouse. 

Do some really cheap experiments to validate those ideas. It’s the way of the future. 

For me, has a wonderful class called Scrum with UX. My most popular class actually, it’s a lovely way of discovering those ideas that you don’t need to build.

Kanban is about delivering things faster, optimize the delivery of value. 

But you can even optimize it more by not putting more things into the funnel. You can use UX and design thinking to discover those ideas you should never build.

Thank you.

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