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The new era of Post-it innovation

Crafting great products is our SuperPower. We’re not just thinking or beard-stroking. We build shit that people will love and use.

Oday Mashalla

Oday Mashalla

Here at Humblebee we are always eager to get great products into the hands of users that will have a genuine impact on them (and businesses) both in terms of emotion and experience.

Crafting great products is our SuperPower. We’re not just thinking or beard-stroking. We build shit that people will love and use.

Let’s talk about ‘Design Thinking’. A reasonably recent phenomenon inspired by the Jake Knapp book. We see lots of organizations struggling to get beyond the basic level of design “thinking”. They read books, hire designers and facilitators, run sprints, but are left with no revolutionary results, no next step plan, and major setbacks in their missions to prove the value of design-led approaches. Simply broken innovation and about 1000 trees worth of used Post-it notes.

Lately we’ve seen lots of innovation labs pop up that are well intentioned, and meant to help companies drive digital product innovation. Using a variety of tools intended they attempt to help with generating creativity among non-designers. By empathizing, ideating, prototyping, testing and Post-It notes on walls.

This has nothing to do with product innovation or even crafting great products. It’s just a package of mindsets, principles, practices, and techniques. At its most basic level, this way of working could provides a structured and iterative approach to problem-solving, putting the customer at the center of the problem-solving process, instead of our own organizations or new technology.

In the desire for product innovation, it’s easy for organizations to be fascinated by this way of working. The risk is that they fall into what we call post-it innovation theater. Walk into most companies these days and you will see a lot of activity, a lot of people rushing around, a lot of people busying themselves with workshops and sprints, but almost always lacking a clear direction. Everyone is trying to understand or even keep up with the speed of how everything around us is changing, that is more clearly today than ever before.

No workshop is safe, no strategy is safe and no idea is good until you get it in the hands of customers. Build it and let user test it in real life.

Product Innovation is a lean process, it doesn’t happen with fancy methodologies or even if you have dedicated Innovation Labs. All that does is create a so-called post-it theater with the main purpose of giving the impression of being an innovative company with walls full of the customer journey, canvases, business models and Post-its in all the flavors that it exists. It can appeal as innovation. It looks like innovation. And it feels like innovation. But it is not innovation. And we must never forget that.

What you need to do is to move from one idea to a concrete solution that creates change and impact on a user’s experience. And to get there, a number of different bets are required which are anything but theatre. Genuine product innovation happens when the product is out in the real world. The earlier that real customers can touch and feel the product, the closer you are to innovation. And you don’t need months or even years, it’s possible that 6 weeks is more than enough time to find and scope a problem; work through ideas for new products/services to solve the problem; identify the best idea, create and test the first product (MVP), and figure out a business model. To succeed with that speed requires sharply crafted skills, designing and realizing attractive products, services, and customer experiences.

Ultimately, this is the only real innovation. And no theatre in the world can replace it.

Real innovation is:
- How might we learn X most quickly?
- What is most important for us to build and learn in the next 6 weeks?
- How can we increase the pace of our own learning?
- How can we focus on building products and iterating them rigorously?
- How can we be a more design-driven organization?
- How can we be a more customer-centric organization?

Post-its on a wall are not innovation before they are converted into products where users can tell us if they will use them or not. And users don’t give a shit about how much time & effort went into something. They simply don’t know nor care. They want to know whether the product brings value to their daily life. If it doesn’t, see ya later. If it does, great, when can I get it and here’s some money for it.

This is very close to our values at Humblebee. Are you wondering how you could start adopting this approach more formally?

Great! You can start with taking down one post-it and contact us at Humblebee.

Written by

Oday Mashalla

Design Director

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