Skip to main content



July 15, 2020

We Are All in Startup Up Mode Now! Use Design Thinking to Reinvent

Categories:  Resources | Org Transformation

Use Design Thinking to Reinvent What You Do and How You Do It

What comes to mind when we think about being in startup up mode? Most often, the term brings up images of people in a garage hovered over computers, or a small team in a co-working space surviving on caffeinated drinks and ramen noodles, and most likely pre-COVID.

Best-selling author Eric Ries had a different view when he wrote the now iconic book The Lean Startup. Ries defined a startup as:

“A human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”

If we are all operating under conditions of extreme uncertainty, perhaps we are all startups (or in startup mode) now regardless of our size, industry, or role.

Depending on our tolerance for uncertainty, our ability to envision a range of realistic scenarios, and our adaptability, we may have no choice but to reinvent what we do and how we do it for an undetermined period of time.

Three concepts from Design Thinking and The Lean Startup are particularly helpful for conditions of extreme uncertainty when the past no longer predicts the future.

  1. Empathy: Empathy is critical to deeply understand our clients’ issues from the inside of their experience, not from inside our heads with the pre-determined and limited number of “boxes” in which we are trying to fit their needs. True empathy requires deep listening and an open mind. Being truly Customer Centric whether our “clients” are external or internal and in a way we may never have been before. And, our clients may not be able to articulate exactly what they need, which means we have to listen even more deeply to “hear” their challenges and pain points.
  2. Minimal Viable Product or Service (MVP or MVS): High uncertainty increases the need to experiment, skillfully and often, to test how our new ideas and products respond to changing customer needs. But putting out expensive prototypes or marketing campaigns is not the way to do it in the Lean Startup Playbook. A much better way of testing if we are on the right track is to create an MVP (or MVS), which is the smallest possible and least costly prototype or experiment, and to learn from that experiment. Facebook, Airbnb, Amazon, Zappos, Etsy, and Dropbox all started as MVPs. Each started out as small limited offering – even operating in the red – but after iterations – ultimately grew exponentially. What is the minimal or small offering we could “market test” right now?
  3. Product or Service Market-Fit: Our experiments aim to reach a state, even a temporary one, of unique fit between the needs of customers and our new offer. Product or Service Market-Fit is a distinct experience when things “click” into place, and growth accelerates dramatically. This will come if we pay attention to #1 Empathy, #2 MVP/MVS, and of course Opportunity & Timing – but nothing ventured – nothing gained. Stay with us now.

When the past may no longer predict the future, and regardless of our industry or role (internal or external, business leader, HR leader, professional), we can all gain from applying these principles. We have a unique opportunity now, when so much has been shut down and changed to experiment with being a “start-up” – to think anew, to create, to experiment, to create a small offering and market test it, to listen to our customers in a way we never have before. Think of all the technology products you love today and how they started. They weren’t amazing necessarily, but they were interesting enough to try once and then before you know it – we were hooked.

You too can do this, starting now. What is ONE small offering or hypothesis you can test? What is the least costly possible way for you to find out whether something is worth pursuing? How will you extract the learning that needs to be extracted from your experiments?

Reinventing what we do and how we do it ensures we provide the products and services that our clients truly need and buy. And that we also are playing with our passions, creativity, and perhaps even untapped capabilities. This time is yours – take it – embrace it – either be a Start-Up, or think like a Start-up!

Lead on!

Lori and Manuelle

P.S. If you are interested in assessments on Mentioning Character Strengths or Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile, please contact Lori.

Lead on! 

Lori & Manuelle 

Lori Heffelfinger, MSOD, PCC and Manuelle Charbonneau, Ph.D.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss
Back to All Posts

How to Make Cool Leaders Great and Great Organizations Better.

Download our free guide

61d727e911249 (1)