How Lean UX can spark a culture of innovation

Innovative organisations learn fast. They evolve to survive, stay agile, absorb emerging technologies, enter markets quickly, take advantage of change, and disrupt the status quo. Innovation is the route to future-proof business growth. But how do you encourage innovation, especially when your current business model is successful? Innovation can’t just be a buzzword in your brand values. Your company needs to live it at every level of the organisation. That means doing stuff that might not come naturally, like embracing experimentation and handing over power to your staff to try new things. And that culture change can be a challenge because it involves changing how people behave. The answer is Lean UX: a methodology that encourages a culture of innovation by empowering people to experiment without fear of failure.

What’s UX got to do with a culture of innovation?

So what has User Experience got to do with encouraging innovation within your business? Using UX methodologies within a company (instead of on customers) turns the kaleidoscope upside-down. Your team become the U in UX – users of your systems and your ideas. And we can change their behaviour to encourage innovation by understanding, designing and improving what they do.

Step 1: Define your objectives

Why are you trying to build innovation into your company culture? Before you start applying UX principles you need a clear idea of the commercial outcomes you’re trying to achieve. This is a learning process, and your goals and planned approach need to be flexible. Successful organisations change course as they learn, and the detail of what you’re aiming to do may change as you move forward.

How do we do it?

Our discovery workshops help align executive teams and identify differences of opinion. By bringing these differences to the surface we can iterate on the ideas that emerge until everyone shares a common objective.

Step 2: Understand and eliminate pain points

If we asked you to describe what a member of your team does day-to-day, and then asked them to describe it, the answers would be likely to be significantly different. The reality for people who do the work in the organisation is likely to be different to how senior management perceive it, and you need to understand their unique challenges, pressures and opinions before you can change the way the work. How do you find out what problems do you need to solve for your own staff? If you understand internal issues and solve them, you can turn your own people into evangelists for a new way of working. And it’s rare that an issue can be solved with software alone. Commercial factors, regional differences, product and service issues and culture often play a role.

How do we do it?

One-to-one interviews with your staff can help us understand the daily challenges they face to deliver their objectives. These in-depth sessions followed by a meta-analysis of the results can uncover problems you didn’t know existed.

Step 3: Validate your thinking

It’s tempting for managers to assume that they understand all the issues within a company because they know the work processes, software, product and team so well. But making assumptions like this can lead to missing problems or making mistakes. The most reliable way to uncover problems and come up with real solutions is to experiment and test. UX offers an established methodology for this kind of testing. We can validate concepts using prototypes or by simulating how a process could work, providing valuable insight into what people will accept and what can be improved.

How do we do it?

User testing prototypes help us to explore the root cause of issues and to test whether our solutions work. An added bonus is that when we test ideas on your team, people will feel engaged as they can see their feedback making a tangible difference. And when people feel engaged, they are more passionate and more productive.

From UX to a culture of innovation

Lean UX enables teams to try innovative new concepts and solutions and test whether they work. But once you’ve successfully innovated once, how do you keep it going? How does UX build innovation into your business in a lasting way? Embarking on this journey can change the culture of a company. When a team engages with this iterative, user-centred methodology, people come away enthused and inspired. They start to see how the thinking can be applied in other ways. They see UX wherever they look! Discovery, research, idea validation, user testing and prototyping become an established way of dealing with any project. The result is a company with a culture of innovation where constructive experimentation is accepted and people are empowered to try new things in a structured way. That leads to better products and more satisfied customers, helping you disrupt your market before someone else does.