What Do You Get When You Cross Human-Centered Design and Agile Teamwork? Bessel Rapid Innovation
by Chris Danek
Taking inspiration from the Agile Manifesto, Bessel has developed a manifesto for rapid innovation that combines the strengths of human-centered design and agile teamwork. The challenge? Applying this approach with balance.
Getting it right requires intense focus and the strength of experience. Here’s how Bessel builds teams that collaborate, innovate, and move forward quickly.
We work in small, collaborative teams of multidisciplinary experts
Small, self-directed teams are a key success factor in agile teamwork. The universe of possible solutions opens up based on the resources and capabilities of the team.
However, teams that only rely on their own internal expertise develop blind spots. Instead, the most successful teams remember the importance of acquiring know-how from outside the team. The team needs to use its domain expertise to identify solution possibilities, and its design thinking expertise to fuel imagination and to bring solutions into the team.
We pursue customer discovery relentlessly
Framing the design challenge is the first and most important step in a successful innovation project. We identify what questions to answer and the attributes of an ideal solution. Without understanding the questions and potential answers, even the strongest team will struggle to deliver value.
The human-centered design mindset of empathy helps us understand and frame design challenges and to test solution concepts.
We’ve been doing this since it was called “Voice of the Customer” and constantly go back to the key stakeholders to learn. We emphasize "stakeholders" because it is not just the end user or customer that matters. It is about everyone in the value chain: suppliers, the team developing and producing the product, distribution partners, the end users, and the people influenced by the solution.
Taking this broad perspective helps us identify stakeholder requirements that are in conflict, and opens the possibility of solutions that resolve apparent conflicts.
Committing to understanding the design challenge means having the courage to retrace steps—at higher and higher speed with better and better outcomes—until the right problem is identified and the best solution is delivered.
We deliver working solutions rapidly to test our assumptions
Working solutions, from learning prototype to refined concepts, are required in the customer discovery process. We need to be willing to take the stakeholder feedback and change our designs.
It helps that we do not get too attached to any particular solution concepts. It also helps when we realize ways to combine ideas. This is, in fact, how we can “change the rules of the game” and identify assumptions we can change, that others may take as requirements, to inform a better design.
We iterate to engage in constant discovery of a better solution
We know we must be agile. But being agile isn’t just about speed. This is about more than velocity and the number of design-build-test cycles we can achieve. Every pass through the iteration cycle teaches the team and builds its capability.
As the team continues discovery learning, it is poised to develop and deliver an elegant, clean solution to the design challenge that is framed by the team.
The balancing act is to hold open the design challenge as long as practical. Framing the design challenge sets the potential value of the solution. Wait too long, and you miss the opportunity to deliver a solution and then iterate in the marketplace.