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Live from MarTech: The key elements of lean product design

Last updated on August 17th, 2017 at 11:30 am

There are infinite ways to create great product experiences, says Jeff Gothelf, lean evangelist and principal author at He was one of the notable speakers at MarTech, a leading marketing conference in San Francisco.

Lean product design is the key to learning in a continuous world, one in which innovation and change are the only constants. The ability to respond to learning as quickly as possible is crucial to success—if a project is going well, scale it out. If it’s not doing so well, roll it back. “That’s not failure, it’s continuous learning,” asserts Gothelf, who lists eight key elements of lean product design:

Humility: This is the “most important,” according to Gothelf. Approach product experiences with humility and a healthy sense of constant skepticism. This will mitigate the risk of going down the wrong path, and experimentation will keep things fresh and ever-evolving. “A lean culture is about having continuous curiosity and organizational humility,” asserts Gothelf.

Qualitative Value: Gothelf says “there is a qualitative side to the word ‘value’ that doesn’t fit neatly into the business tools” understood by B2B marketing professionals. What’s valuable to your audience? This sort of data isn’t found on any spreadsheet, but those who can learn such things quickly and cheaply will “reduce the risk of building things people don’t want.”

Iteration: Try and try again, with the view that each new design iteration is a novel hypothesis that should be valued from both a customer and business perspective. The more wrong paths you try—and the more quickly you try them—the less time you spend exploring incorrect hypotheses. Maintain a user-centric point of view, focusing efforts on understanding customer behavior. What’s the problem, and how can we solve it?

Data: Lean product design isn’t just about being data-driven, it’s about being data-informed, says Gothelf.

Responsiveness: React quickly to optimize relationships and build customer loyalty and project success. Remember, changing course when things aren’t working out isn’t admitting failure, it’s proactively adapting to and triumphing over adversity, he adds.

Culture of Learning: Organizations which choose a culture of learning over a culture of delivery have a decided edge. In today’s continuous collaborative creative culture, the optimal way to reap the rewards the new paradigm has to offer is through constant hypothesis and experimentation.

Product and Marketing: Cross-functional, collaborative teams bring superior products to market faster, and marketing toward outcomes generates better solutions. A lean user experience approach, when combined with innovative thinking, allows a marketing team’s creativity to flourish.

Get to Market Faster: Basing product design on assumptions, rather than requirements, will get you to market faster. Be mindful of the principles of lean product design to maximize the insight you’re inhaling. Marketing must increase the practice of “inhaling,” or, basically, the process by which the marketer learns. In order to deliver healthy results, it is necessary to “inhale” often.

By paying close attention to all eight of these elements, it’s easy to re-imagine marketing and customer relationships. Constant interaction, especially when done in an endearing way, strengthens relationships. Zappos and Dropbox, and in the non-tech world firms like Disney and Shake Shack, are good examples of companies that have excelled in building great relationships. You can, too, if you ceaselessly focus on applying the eight aforementioned elements to your product design and marketing plan.

Photo via Brett Wilkins


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