Prof. Jeanne Liedtka Blog by Siddharth Kumar Gopal

Have you heard the terms Design Thinking, Moses Myth, Napkin Pitch or ‘Job to be Done’ ? Well, our session with the amazing Prof. Jeanne Liedtka taught us all this and more. Design thinking is essentially a problem solving approach which keeps the customer in the centre of the product design process. She described it using a 4 step model of What Is, What If, What Vows and What Works. The core idea and the tools to be used in each step is captured in the diagram below:

It starts by paying attention to the people you are trying to serve, understanding their lives and needs. The next step is to generate a portfolio of ideas without worrying about real world constraints. As Prof. Liedtka says you cannot design a better tomorrow if you are stuck in today’s constraints.  Once all ideas are generated, then we bring in our business needs into the picture and see which of those ideas are financially viable. The next step is to prototype and test the idea in a limited market of real life customers so that we get accurate feedback on what works and what doesn’t about our product – this will help us fine tune the product further, before we take it to market on a large scale. The Prof. wasn’t a huge fan of the ‘Fail Fast’ model, as she believes that often failure is the result of not planning and analyzing the data properly. Once the idea is finalized, she recommends the ‘Napkin Pitch’ model to help take it to market. This is enumerated in the table below:

The Napkin Pitch
The Key Idea: What is the key concept of your product. Needs Being Met: What customer needs does your product meet?
Execution: How will you deliver the product or service to the customer? What are the things you need to make your idea practical? Business Benefits: What business benefits will you derive? Are there already competitive ideas in the market? How are you different?


She also spoke about the Moses Myth where we look at entreprenuers as something akin to miracle workers like Moses who magically parted the Red Sea. She mentioned that while entrepreneurs are creative geniuses, who could identify problems and needs and potential solutions which others could not see, they are not necessarily magicians. Also, most of us can still find solutions to cross the Red Sea by systematically building a bridge across it. Thus Prof.Liedtka has provided us with a scientific roadmap to fine tune our business ideas, rather than going with our gut instincts, and hoping for a miracle to make our product a success in the marketplace.

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