Thinking Wrong + Agile = True Love?


We were recently asked (again) if the Think Wrong Practices were inspired by Agile and Scrum methodologies.

The simple answer is “No.”

End of blog?

Nope.

Since we keep getting asked, it’s probably worth taking a closer look at how they’re related.

Agile has its roots in software development, but today you can find people across organizations using it to run projects. Why has Agile taken hold? Because the big bets and risk-filled assumptions of traditional waterfall project management too often failed to deliver products and projects. Agile wins because it works.

Rapid Ingenuity has its roots in how designers are taught to solve problems—what has been coined as design thinking by IDEO and Stanford d.school founder David M. Kelly. So, today you can find people across sectors and industries embracing design thinking to solve challenges where MBA thinking has failed to do so. Design thinking produces solutions—and results—that business problem solving orthodoxies cannot.

Many of the organizations who pioneered the broader use of Agile have stumbled upon a new challenge: “We’ve mastered the development and delivery of solutions, but we’re not where we want to be when it comes to conceiving game-changing innovations.”

To address this, engineering, product management, strategy, and innovation leaders have turned to design. They’ve spotted a useful overlap in the Agile/Design Thinking Venn diagram. One accelerates conception. The other accelerates execution.

And Thinking Wrong is next-generation design thinking.

Building on the foundation of design thinking, we’ve added a critical definition and three distinct practices:

Thinking Wrong
A key component of thinking wrong is ingenuity—Ingenuity is the clever, original, and practical use of existing resources to solve a challenge—fast.

This definition provides a helpful checklist for evaluating innovations:
Does your innovation make clever use of existing resources?
Does your innovation make original use of existing resources?
Does your innovation make practical use of existing resources?

The Be Bold Practice.
Be Bold focuses everyone on your challenge and how to make the most from taking it on. It helps you not only take users into account, but also the strategic aspirations of your organization and the people who show up every day to achieve those. Ultimately Be Bold challenges everyone to raise the bar on what’s possible. It’s a unifying practice that inspires and energizes your people, your partners, and the communities you serve through shared purpose and a compelling vision of impact.

The Let Go Practice.
Let Go deliberately breaks the heuristic biases and synaptic connections that result in the status quo and stand in the way of ingenious solutions. The Let Go Practice forces you to solve from a place you would never consider, ensuring solutions you could otherwise never imagine.

The Bet Small Practice.
Bet Small, inspired through our work with best-selling author Peter Sim’s (Little Bets), counters the fear that too often snuffs out new born ideas by applying Sim’s concept of affordable loss. So, rather than placing a massive bet on an unknown and untested idea (what the waterfall methodology was developed to manage), this practice generates a portfolio of small bets from which ingenious solutions can quickly learn, adapt, and evolve.

With its scrums, sprints, and frequent deliverables Agile offers a management approach ideally suited to producing the LFI (Learning From Investment) that Think Wrong’s Make Stuff, Bet Small, and Move Fast Practices are designed to produce.

So, while the honest answer to whether or not the Think Wrong Practices were inspired by Agile remains, “No.” It’s equally true that Agile and Thinking Wrong are kissing cousins.

If you use Agile—of any flavor—you might consider giving the Think Wrong Practices a try the next time you have a challenge that demands a game-changing solution.

Likewise, if you use the Think Wrong Practices and want to adopt an equally reliable set of practices to manage the execution of your portfolio of small bets you might consider bringing in an Agile pro or Scrum Master, regardless of whether your ingenious solutions demand software development.

When used together Agile and the next generation of design thinking yield even more ingenious outcomes.

Even faster.

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