Dec 3, 2013

Bat, Bloodhound, Pigeon

roadkill on the path to innovation

An earlier post (Map and Territory) pointed out the basic oneness of Agile Engineering, Lean Startup, and Design Thinking. Each compares territory to a map, and then map to territory, orienting one to the other until they both make sense. The Territory in this metaphor stands for concrete facts that either align with or obstruct a chosen path. The map stands for the models of reality we use to find our way.

So if Agile Engineering, Lean Startup, and Design Thinking are all essentially the same, why are they three things?

Let's complicate the Map and Territory story.

Bat, Bloodhound, and Pigeon have sharpened their mapping skills over the years and are pretty happy with their different maps. Bat navigates by sonar, so his map is a kind of sonogram. Bat's map seems nonsense to Bloodhound, who gets around by smell; her map shows scent trails. Pigeon navigates by magnetoception -- he perceives direction, altitude and location through magnetic fields. So Pigeon's map is chart of magnetism. Pigeon doesn't see any use in sound or smell maps.

But reality keeps intruding. Bat has frequent near-misses with suspended power lines. Bloodhound keeps running into rivers and snowbanks. And once or twice a year, electromagnetic disturbances caused by solar flares leave Pigeon completely lost.

Sharing stories one evening at a forest meetup, Bat, Bloodhound and Pigeon come up with an idea: why not put their maps together? So they overlay Bat's map on Bloodhound's map on Pigeon's map. They set out on a venture together and works! With the combined-perspective map, the world seems a friendlier place.

Bat is an Engineer, Bloodhound is a Marketeer, and Pigeon is a Designer.

So if Agile Engineering, Lean Startup, and Design Thinking are all essentially the same, why are they three things? Because they represent three different perspectives on the same reality.

Agile Engineering Lean Startup Design Thinking
...thinks innovation springs from... Technology Customer Development Insight into User Motivation
thinks Agile Engineering (is)... best practice should do only what is asked by customers. hasty and naïve
… thinks Lean Startup (is)… kills great ideas prematurely best practice superficial and short-term
… thinks Design Thinking (is)… slow and naïve should be outsourced to customers best practice

These (comment baiting) caricatures highlight the different discipline-centric perspectives of Agile Engineering, Lean Startup, and Design Thinking to what is fundamentally the same reality. I've come across them all in the wild.

At ground, the different approaches are properly complementary. They address the What, How, and Why of successful innovation.

Agile Engineering Lean Startup Design Thinking
What How Why
Solutions Opportunity Value
Feasibility Viability Desirability

I call for a new mashed-up approach, combining the tools of Agile Engineering, Lean Startup, and Design Thinking. Who will join me?

Next week, I'll try to make a more concrete proposal.

Thanks to Nicolien Adema, Jeroen Frumau, Lorna Goulden,  Laurens Massee, Han Toebast, and Jay Vidyarthi for constructive contribution to this post.

Thanks to Michael Held, whose project on 2nd order observation maps inspired the overlaid perspective metaphor.

All exaggerations and misunderstandings are entirely my own.

Please share this post. If you comment, I'll reply. Thanks for reading!

 My other blog is full of personal rants.


  1. Nice post. I've sat in projectgroups in which we "did" agile development using all three disciplines. Workes great (but only if all roles respected each others viewpoints and opinions, and worked from there).

    The dutch designcompany Fabrique wrote a must-read about combiing design, engeneering and marketing within one process:

    Furthermore, nice to see that Jeroen Frumau contributed to this post, we had coffee last week...

  2. Hi Ron,

    Thanks for the link to Fabrique book. I've passed it on to my colleagues.



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