Car crash testI was recently at a conference that was ‘innovation central’ for medical devices

and had the privilege to see more new innovative technologies on the cusp of  greatness than I can mention in this short article.

I did notice however a tension between development philosophies with many of the projects. What it boils down to is two camps. There is the camp that sees the possibility for a new technology. They get fired up about testing it to see if it could work. Feasibility models are built, tests are run, and so on. These folks tend to be of a more scientific and academic background, but not always. The other camp is the group that is looking for a need to meet, and when the find one they qualify it out and begin to look for technologies that can create a device to meet the need.

To say that the first camp is practicing Agile, and the second camp is practicing Design Thinking is a far cry from accurate. However, a few major principles from each methodology do dominate each camp.

Agile is about testing things quickly, learning from that, and testing again. This means you have to make something. This is the thinking that is driving the folks in the first camp.

Design Thinking is all about meeting users needs and believing they will adopt your device solution into their lives. This is driving the folks in the second camp.

Both of those methodologies have good qualities that are very useful at the right times. But are some important things that should be applied in either scenario that will help ensure product success:

-User research should be done first. In design thinking it is all about discovering key stakeholders needs. But in Agile, there still needs to be a vetting process for the idea itself, and this process should include determining if the targeted user really needs or wants this device. Note this is very different from understanding that the user wants a solution to their problem. The user need exercise in agile could easily be ‘asking the 5 why’s” which will take you back to the core of the problem and make you think about other possible solutions to the problem, not just the one that you are itching to build and test now.

-Concepts can be tested in a lot of ways. Most people think in agile you have to build a working prototype to test concepts. This is not always true. There are a lot of things you can test with a sketch. Since a sketch takes a fraction of the time it takes to build a working prototype, think about all the concepts you can test for certain things with sketches compared to a prototype. This will help you eventually test prototypes that will be more ‘on target’. The point is to learn and improve, and both methods embrace that philosophy. Design Thinking embraces the idea of using low fidelity concepts to test early, and move to higher fidelity as you progress through learning. Agile believes in concepting the most important features first, them move into defining those of lesser importance.

-It’s all about how you start. If you plan on learning about user needs from the start, and are focused on improving the concepts as you progress, you may find yourself using a hybrid methodology that is more robust.

Want to learn more about that kind of method? Kablooe’s D3 Process® (Design Driven Development®) is a process that uses thinking from both camps to develop products in a holistic framework that addresses user needs and develops solutions efficiently. Click here to learn more.