Little nightly thoughts
by Business Exploration

Dear Fellow Innovator,

I had a nice conversation with a former colleague and now Responsible for New Products Development in one of the largest Engineering Groups in Europe, about the way new product and service ideas are scouted and developed by OEMs.

I was happy to learn that the best practices of Lean Startup are taking the lead in the R&D departments, playing a critical role in reshaping the way Customers are engaged, in understanding their job-to-be-done and probing the problem-solution dyade by converging approximations instead than via tollgated waterfalls.

Nevertheless applying the Lean Startup to "our" industrial environment, requires some thoughtful considerations and hands-on experience that can not be acquired on MBA courses or nerdy co-workings.

The Oil & Gas and the Energy industries have their peculiarity:

  1. It's B2B
    and this means your client can not be enchanted with some shining app-effects, because they f...know the matter inside-out better than us.
  2. It's Political
    most of the decisions are taken by few guys defending enormous interests, and only then "supported" by legions of analysts and experts
  3. It's Scarce
    the number of clients and decision makers are few compared to the industry where the Lean Startup has been developed: the web.

Our conversation then, pointed some key caveat that I thought it's worth to highlight:

3 caveat in applying Lean Startup in industrial companies:

  1. Lean Startup offers a great opportunity to improve the way new ideas are identified and developed, but validating the conclusions may still oblige Top Management weight in their Gut.

The problem is that Lean Startup was designed with the "www" in mind and the possibility to pick customers' samples always large enough to statistically validate our assumptions. In our Industry you do not have that luxury. SO: good thing to adopt the process, but expect that your gut will make the validation.

  1. Lean startup it's great at defining the key questions and identifying the key persons to whom to talk about the new business idea, but it may lack of the specific understanding of the complex context in which B2B purchasing decisions are made.

The number of touch points and decision-makers' influencers in our industries is huge and it seems constantly diverging. SO: Lean Startup is a good starting point but you may need a level-down-dive to proper address the buying process. Thanks God a good tool can be found e.g. from some specialist investigative framework like the one of Ms. A. Revella's book: "the Buyer Persona". If you are responsible for a R&D or New Product Development department you may want to get it, along to your Eric Ries and Steve Blank books.

  1. Lean startup is a great tool to foster innovation, but it bears an implicit assumption that the innovating team (the Startupper(s)) are playing alone.

The Responsible for a NPD department is by no means close to this "ideal" condition, where "You" decide and pivot as much as required to succeed or to fail. If you are in the dilemma between keeping your next NPD team inside or outside your company organization, then you may want to go and take a look to a perhaps more famous "Dilemma": "the Innovator's Dilemma" book written by Harvard Prof. Christensen. There he indulged on several ways to solve the organizational dilemma, depending of the stage of the technology you are thinking to develop, your actual organization, and the available Human Resource you can count on.

Probably you may have other caveat to add to these,
and I would be interested to talk about them

As usual, Just ping me



PS: some more reading:

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