“Lean Startup, Business Model Design, or Design Thinking?” is the Wrong Question

To achieve breakthrough innovation, you shouldn’t limit yourself to any of these frameworks but rather use all three…and possibly more.

The bigger context

You don’t get a gold star for the following process but for achieving results — specifically, business model results.

What is a business model?

A business model describes three things: value creation, value delivery, and value capture. All three relate to customers. Therefore, customer-centricity also needs to be at the core of defining, measuring, and communicating progress.

Facets of a working business model

IDEO helped codify three facets for measuring a working business model:

The intersection of these three circles (desirability, viability, and feasibility) defines the sweet spot of innovation. But getting there usually requires a multi-framework approach.

Think framework of frameworks

While the frameworks above overlap, each has a specific superpower that stands out above the others.

So at LEANSTACK, we decided to curate these superpowers into a new framework of frameworks: The Continuous Innovation Framework.

Frameworks vs. Methodologies

The Continuous Innovation Framework is very much a framework — not a methodology. Frameworks, by definition, are loose scaffolding that provides structure, guidelines, and playbooks versus prescriptive processes found in methodologies.

In other words, frameworks differentiate between principles and tactics — while providing both.

Principles guide what you do.
Tactics show you how.

To serve the bigger context, tactics that reach their natural end of life should be promptly replaced with newer/better ones.

Principles are permanent, while tactics are ephemeral.

In our work, you’ll find many examples of tactics (like Problem Interviews) that we constantly replace with newer/better ones (like Problem Discovery).

Why “Continuous” Innovation?

As opposed to stop-and-go innovation, continuous innovation is a mindset of constantly challenging the status quo — even if you currently are the status quo.

Every company needs to simultaneously optimize its existing business model (sustain) and search for the next evolution of the business model (disrupt).

Speed is a key tenet for doing this well and succeeding in the new world. Speed of learning is the new unfair advantage. And companies that continuously outlearn their competition win.

Much like failing becomes learning when you’re going fast, innovation becomes continuous.

A brief history of the Continuous Innovation Framework

The early scaffolding for the Continuous Innovation Framework was described in my first book: Running Lean. This is when I first stumbled into the 3-step meta-process: Model-Prioritize-Test.


Over the years, while this meta-process has stayed the same, many more models (Customer Factory Blueprint, Customer Forces Canvas, Traction Roadmap), prioritization tools, and testing techniques have been developed in response to chasing yet more questions:
- How do you size business models?
- How do you define traction and measure product/market fit?
- How do you avoid your own biases during problem interviews?
- How do you prioritize the riskiest assumptions?
- How do you manage innovation/idea portfolios?

Version History

Continuous Innovation Framework 1.0 — March 9, 2012
- Running Lean Meta-Process
- Lean Canvas

Continuous Innovation Framework 2.0 — June 14, 2016
- GOLEAN Meta-process
- Customer Factory Blueprint
- Traction Roadmap
- LEAN Sprints

Continuous Innovation Framework 3.0 — June 7, 2018
- The Innovator’s Gift
- Customer Forces Canvas

‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’
- Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

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