The Three Essential Elements to Ensure you are Creating Value and Not Waste

Heather Hiscox of Moves The Needle shares her "3 common sense elements" that will help social enterpreneurs and nonprofit leaders create social change

June 05, 2018

Lean Innovation is all about creating value for all of the many stakeholders or “customers” you serve. Here are three common sense, but rarely practiced, elements that will help you efficiently and effectively pursue solutions that can actually solve social problems.

The first element of innovation is empathy:

Often in social impact we assume that we are naturally empathetic and we also often do not even associate empathy with innovation. But empathy is the foundation of value creation because, first, we must deeply understand those we serve before we can fall in love with them and the problem we are here to solve. Our favorite way to gain empathy is through one-on-one interviewing (note: no surveys or focus groups – they don’t work for gaining empathy!) in which we ask open-ended, often retrospective questions that allow people to tell their own stories. We do enough of these interviews until we see themes emerge around prioritized needs, and then we brainstorm potential solutions.

The second essential element is experimentation:

Once we identify an abundance of potential solutions, we don't go into implementation mode. Instead, we prioritize these ideas by how bold they are in the eyes of our customer and how likely they are to solve their problem. Next is the fun part; we try to break our potential solution. We identify the riskiest assumptions, the most critical and most unknown pieces that will create a hot mess later if we don’t address them now. We design and conduct rapid experiments to put these assumptions to the test by separating what people say they will do and reality. We test actual behavior of the people who will ultimately be served by our solution before we move forward.

The third critical element is evidence:

Once we have run multiple experiments, we make decisions based on what we know for sure. Through empathy and experimentation we know what will and will not create value. This allows us to not only lead change initiatives with enormous confidence, but it democratizes innovation. When you make decisions based on data, observation, and insights, you enable anyone to arrive at what you know will actually solve the communities’ problems.

Innovation to us is not about sexy, new, or “flavor of the month”, it is about creating value for those we serve. It is about removing uncertainty, which permeates every solution, and testing our way to actual change beyond what we even imagined was possible. 

If you want to learn how the three elements of Empathy, Experimentation, and Evidence work in practice or want access to free tools to increase your success, join Acumen’s upcoming webinar on June 20th at 9am PST

Moves The Needle was started to work with large enterprises around the world to help teams and leaders reignite their entrepreneurial spirit to move faster, act bolder, and focus on value creation. We apply the Lean Innovation methodology to the Social Impact Sector to solve our own problems as practitioners. We saw the many ways that we were unintentionally creating more waste than we were creating impact.

(Photo Credit: Ian Schneider)

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