Matías Honorato

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Design + Lean = Thinking Startup

Last week three entrepreneurial monsters sat down to chat about Lean Startup and Design Thinking. Here is a glance about what the conversation was about and how these two process can converge in amazing outcomes.


By the way, this are the guys that I’m talking about:

Eric Ries (Author “The Lean Startup”)

Tim Brown (CEO, IDEO – Author “Change by Design” )

Jake Knapp (Design partner, Google Venture)

Here the whole interview


Let’s do a little introduction about what these two concepts are, by what these experts have established.

Design Thinking

[…] design thinking is neither art nor science nor religion. It is the capacity, ultimately, for integrative thinking. 85

Design is about delivering a satisfying experience. Design thinking is about creating a multipolar experience in which everyone has the opportunity to participate in the conversation. 192

Tim Brown – “Change by Design”

In other words…

safe_imageLean Startup

Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop is at the core of the Lean Startup model.”

“We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.” 

Eric Ries – “The Lean Startup”

In a simplest way…


 A common denominator

In a first look we can see that this two concepts have different approaches in how the innovative process is done and for whom this process is applied.

While the Design Thinking is used more as a process to find creative solutions to complex and specific problems for business or customers needs. The Lean Startup is used as framework to start the developing of an existing idea or vision in search of creating a new business in response of a problem that the founders have found in a specific niche of customers.

Even these differentiations, both concepts are interlaced in a common base, both are “Customer Centric Innovations”. We must think of each innovative process, from building a multi-million machine (Eric explains this in more details in the video) to a “low budget garage startup”, as continuous experiments trying to understand and learn from our assumptions about the problem that we think we’re solving with our solution/idea/product for that specific niche of customers/users.

Many of these concepts fail, because the developed products do not solve an actual problem for the user. Those products are not desirable—nobody really needs or wants them, and hence nobody is going to buy them.



In the end, these two process are sustain on the phrase “Fail fast, succeed faster”…A simple way to say, that is through this “trial and error” approach, the best way to validate your solution/idea/product.

The crossroads of Design and Lean

Given the fundamental similarities, both concepts should be capable of complementing and benefiting from each other, and that was what Jake Knapp clarified in the conversation. With Google Ventures, they’ve created an specific methodology of work for their new startups, which combine the best of the Design Thinking and Lean Startup, called “Design Sprint”.

“Since we want to move fast and they want to move fast, we’ve optimized a process that gets us predictably good results in five days or less. We call it a product design sprint, and it’s great for getting unstuck or accelerating projects that are already in motion.”

-Jake Knapp

Taking the best part from the Lean Startup, which is the fast iteration process and feedback loops, all this attached to the metric-based evaluations. Connecting this with the qualitative research methods used in the Design Thinking to understand in better ways the “persona profile” and the ideation process to pivot the idea in response of the data gathered, we ended creating a framework like this…


So yeah, its basically Design Thinking + Lean Startup = “Thinking Startup”


Don’t waste your time looking for the “Formula to success” and there is no need to say that this is not one.

“those who look to adopt the lean start-up as a defined set of steps or tactics willnot succeed”. He goes on to say that “ultimately, the lean start-up is a framework, not a blueprint of steps to follow. It is designed to be adapted to the conditions of each specific company” [emphasis added].

-Eric Ries (By Richard Hughes-Jones Medium post)

Combining both processes we can find incredible tools, and frameworks to develop our ideas and potential business.  But is only each one of us who can make from this process a success or a failure and that’s the beauty about this…We are humans, and we still depends on our own elements in order to succeed.


P.S. If you found value in this article, it would mean a lot to me if you hit the share button and I would love to hear your comments! I would love to catch up with you and know about your experience! @mati_honorato or at

Any grammar, spelling or punctuation mistake, please let me know. So I can keep improving my english…my best to all of you!



  1. Thank you Matias for sharing you thoughts on the intersection design thinking and lean startup. Did you see the Nordstrom version?

    • mhonorato

      July 23, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      Wow! Amazing explanation Franck, really liked it (I’ll share it). Loved the work you are doing with “Nordstrom Lab”, Congrats! Keep the hard work :)

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