The Nineteen Tenets of Value-Centered Innovation

Robert Hoekman Jr
in collaboration with James Young


Product development is full of assumptions, untested beliefs, and risk. In even the best circumstances, under a traditional process, it can take weeks, months, or years of effort to prepare for launch, and the value of the effort can’t be proven until after that day finally arrives. What if the solution is wrong? What then?

We believe in drawing on the best of the Design Thinking, Lean, and Agile methodologies, and adding a rigorous commitment to pragmatism, cross-functional collaboration, and tying actions to outcomes. We believe in augmenting the practices we already know with those that can finally empower us to fully mitigate risk, reduce bias, deliver value early and often, and prove the effects of our work.

We believe not in putting the user, the business, or the technology at the center of the conversation, but in centering our decisions on what’s valuable for all three.

We believe in Value-Centered Innovation.

Know thy business objective.

Every for-profit project has one of three goals: make more money, spend less of it, or both.

When we do not know the future value of our work, we must stop and go find it.

When we can find no future value, we must stop.

Find the problems.

There is just one way to improve the future: know what is shy of its promise in the present.

There is just one way to measure progress: compare what is to what was.

To evaluate the future, document the present.

Answer the questions, question the answers.

Gather all the facts.

Verify all the data.

Define the change.

Nothing makes one’s aim truer than a clear view of a clear target.

List the obstacles.

Knowledge of why the target has not yet been hit activates knowledge of how to hit it next.

Work only on the next right thing.

What is the next most important problem?

What solution might feature the least effort, least risk, and highest impact?

Know the numbers, put them in writing.

Find them.

Express them.

View every decision as a way to change them.

Invest in evidence, or invest in nothing.

If you can produce no evidence, stop.

If you have a little evidence, get a little more.

If you have a lot of evidence, proceed.

Work in a circle, not a chain.

Gather the three minds of Business, User, and Technology.

Decide at once, not in sequence.

Decide together, not alone.

Map the plan to its benefit, the action to its outcome.

What must be done to achieve the desired outcome?

How does this product, service, feature, or action help achieve it?

Do Just In Time research.

Lean manufacturing teaches: Pull, not push. Gather only what can be used right now, not what might be used later.

Each change changes the present. Work in the present. Do not work in the future.

Do Just Enough research.

Learn only enough to form a hypothesis.

Then act.

Write measurable hypotheses.

If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve or prove it.

Spend the least effort, get the right evidence.

Do only what must be done to decide what to do next.

Do only what must be done to decide whether it is right.

Experiment in isolation.

When we test a single change, we can know what caused the effect.

When we test multiple changes together, our work becomes a guess.

For the truth, deploy.

Hypothetical solutions in hypothetical situations conjure hypothetical truths.

Real solutions in real situations conjure real truths.

Track the effects, put them in writing.

A failure to record what has been learned enables the failure of what has yet to be tried.

Act on the learnings or don’t act at all.

Make decisions based on the results.

If asked to act differently, ask why, then ask why again.

Know thy business outcome.

By knowing what we achieved, we go home fulfilled.

By showing what we achieved, others learn the path.

The Nineteen Tenets of Value-Centered Innovation