Desirability, Viability, Feasibility; the core tenets of Design Thinking, and oh, how the order matters!
Every day, I work with engineers who are itching to build solutions to solve the problems they see. They love to create; in fact, you may say they were put on this earth for that very purpose. And then I come along, asking if they are sure they are solving the right thing? How dare I!
It is not that I’m an expert, but I have worked out in my four decades on this earth that I am not always right. It very much pains me to admit this, but sometimes, just rarely, I am wrong.
There I said it. I can be wrong.
And guess what, you can be wrong too.
Innovation is about solving problems, but we need to make sure we are solving a problem that is shared, commonly experienced and causing a lot of pain. As a result, we need each other to get the best answer to the problem, because, we may not always have the best answer.
So back to Desirability, Viability, Feasibility. The order really does matter.
Too often, we ask if our solution is possible. Can we build it? Do we have the skills? Do we have the budget and resource? If we do, let’s get on with it. But how do we know we’re building the right thing? Back to that chance of being fallible, we may be wrong. Shouldn’t we find out if we are making the right decision before we spend a lot of time and effort building a solution that may not be right? No one likes to waste their time.
Does this sound familiar at all? We built this great solution, we worked out how much profit we would make and who the target audience was. We then told the end user, but they didn’t seem to be quite so excited as we were. We hadn’t hit the bullseye, and we needed to make changes to our solution. Actually, they were a really disappointed that we hadn’t solved a much bigger problem that really, really bugged them.
Sound familiar at all? Why does this happen? It’s all to do with the order; Desirability, Viability, Feasibility.
Before we ever build anything, the most important question is not “can we build it?”, but “should we build it?” We have to make sure the that we are either solving enough pain or creating enough pleasure for the end user. We must make sure the end user desires the problem to be solved before we do anything else. The only way find this out is to talk to the end user.
Eek, scary – talking to real people! Not showing them a solution, that’s leading the witness, but spending time with them discovering and understand what their biggest problems are, and only then go and solve the problem.
It sounds too simple, but believe me, it’s really difficult to do. We all love our ideas, they are very precious; we don’t like to admit that our ideas aren’t perfect. But if you want to be successful, you have to be willing to adjust, change and even quit. As Ash Maurya says,“life to too short to build something that nobody wants.”
So, back to Desirability, Viability, Feasibility. Please, please make sure that you know that the end customer really cares about the problem you are seeking to solve. Then work out if it’s worth you solving it, i.e., you are going to make profit, or at least break even; this is Viability. And then and only then, consider if you can actually feasibly build the solution.
Trust me on this, I’ve got too much experience of how badly it goes when the order is changed, and expect you have too. The frustration, the waste of time and money, it’s just not good, and really not fun.
Remember, don’t start with “can we”, but “should we” build it. For the last time; Desirability, Viability, and only then Feasibility.
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Harvey Wade is Innovation Program Manager at Cisco providing strategic direction and support to leaders and their organisations. Prior to Cisco, Harvey has had innovation roles at Allianz, Mindjet and Spigit. His blog is Innovative Thoughts.