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When it comes to discovery, two popular approaches that come to mind are Lean Startup and Design Thinking. Both have their own unique set of principles and methodologies that can help entrepreneurs and businesses create successful products or services. However, choosing which one to use can be a difficult decision. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between Lean Startup and Design Thinking, and provide insights on which one to use for discovery.

What is Lean Startup?

Lean Startup is an approach to product development that was popularized by Eric Ries. It’s a methodology that emphasizes experimentation, validated learning, and rapid iteration. The Lean Startup approach focuses on creating a minimum viable product (MVP) as quickly as possible, testing it with real customers, and then iterating based on the feedback received. The goal is to build a product or service that solves a real problem for customers while minimizing waste and maximizing efficiency.

Principles of Lean Startup

  • Build-measure-learn: It involves creating a product, measuring its performance, and then learning from the data and customer feedback to make improvements. The process is iterative, with each cycle leading to a better understanding of the market and customer needs, and ultimately a more successful product.
  • Validated learning: involves testing assumptions and hypotheses through experimentation to gather real-world data and feedback from customers. This data is then used to make informed decisions about product development and business strategy, leading to a more effective and efficient use of resources. Validated Learning enables startups to iterate quickly, adapt to changing market conditions, and ultimately create products that meet the needs of their customers.
  • Minimum viable product (MVP): involves creating a basic version of a product or service with just enough features to test the market and gather feedback from early adopters. The idea is to quickly and cheaply validate assumptions about the product before investing significant time and resources into building a fully-featured version.
  • Innovation accounting: involves measuring progress in a startup by focusing on the creation of value for customers rather than traditional financial metrics. It involves identifying and testing key assumptions about the business model, using data and feedback to iterate and improve the product or service.
  • Continuous deployment: involves a process of constantly deploying small changes or updates to a product or service in order to gather feedback and improve it based on that feedback. This allows for a more efficient and iterative approach to product development, as well as quick responses to customer needs and preferences.

Advantages of Lean Startup

  • Helps minimize waste and maximize efficiency
  • Provides a framework for experimentation and iteration
  • Helps validate assumptions and test hypotheses
  • Focuses on solving real problems for customers

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a problem-solving approach emphasizing empathy, ideation, and prototyping. It’s a human-centered methodology that seeks to understand the needs and wants of customers, and then use that information to create innovative solutions. The Design Thinking approach is iterative and encourages collaboration, creativity, and experimentation. The goal is to create products or services that are not only functional but also meet the emotional needs of customers.

Principles of Design Thinking

  • Empathy: The first principle of Design Thinking is empathy, which refers to understanding and empathizing with the users for whom you are designing a solution. This involves gaining deep insights into the users’ needs, wants, and desires through observation, interviews, and other research methods. By truly understanding the users’ perspectives, designers can create solutions that are both functional and meaningful.
  • Ideation: The second principle is ideation, which involves generating a wide range of possible solutions to the problem at hand. This is done through brainstorming sessions and other creative exercises that encourage free thinking and the generation of many ideas. The goal of ideation is to produce a large quantity of ideas, even if some of them seem impractical or unrealistic.
  • Prototyping: The third principle is prototyping, which involves creating a tangible representation of one or more of the ideas generated during the ideation phase. Prototyping can take many forms, from physical mockups to digital simulations. The goal of prototyping is to test the viability of an idea and gather feedback from users in order to refine and improve it.
  • Iteration: The fourth principle is iteration, which involves the continuous refinement and improvement of the prototype based on feedback from users and other stakeholders. This process may involve multiple rounds of testing and prototyping as the design is refined and improved. The goal of iteration is to arrive at a final solution that meets the needs of the users and is feasible to implement.
  • Collaboration: The fifth and final principle is collaboration, which is essential to the success of Design Thinking. Collaboration involves working closely with other members of the design team, as well as with stakeholders and users, throughout the entire design process. By bringing together diverse perspectives and skill sets, designers can create more innovative and effective solutions.

Advantages of Design Thinking

  • Helps understand customer needs and wants
  • Encourages creativity and innovation
  • Provides a framework for collaboration and iteration
  • Focuses on creating emotionally satisfying solutions

Which One to Use for Discovery?

Now that we’ve explored the principles and advantages of both Lean Startup and Design Thinking, let’s discuss which one to use for discovery. The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The approach you choose will depend on various factors such as the nature of your business, the problem you’re trying to solve, the resources you have, and your personal preferences.

If your primary goal is to build a product or service quickly and efficiently, then Lean Startup may be the right approach for you. Its focus on experimentation, validated learning, and rapid iteration can help you create a minimum viable product that solves a real problem for customers. However, if you want to create a product or service that meets not only functional needs but also emotional needs, then Design Thinking may be the right approach for you. Its focus on empathy, ideation, and prototyping can help you create solutions that are emotionally satisfying for customers.

Ultimately, the decision on which approach to use for discovery should be based on the specific needs of your business and customers. You may also find that a combination of both approaches can be beneficial. For example, you can use Lean Startup to quickly test and iterate your MVP, and then use Design Thinking to refine and improve the emotional aspects of your solution.


Lean Startup and Design Thinking are two popular approaches to help entrepreneurs and businesses create successful products or services. Lean Startup emphasizes experimentation, validated learning, and rapid iteration, while Design Thinking emphasizes empathy, ideation, and prototyping. Choosing which approach to use for discovery depends on various factors such as the nature of your business, the problem you’re trying to solve, the resources

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