Two sides of the same (enterprise) coin

I believe that alignment between product teams and investment decision makers is one of the most critical elements of “innovation health” and the inflection point at which lean enterprise transformations start to stick.

Evidence based decision making requires two things of course, evidence and decision making.

Teams can run all the experiments they want. They can test every hypothesis to a T. They can identify risky assumptions and de-risk them via innovation accounting. They can be customer centric and they can have endless customer empathy. If decision makers are still asking for 5 year plans and making all or nothing bets, that lean product side mindset is all in vain.

Likewise, investment makers can run all of the open innovation programs they want. They can host Eric Ries and Alexander Osterwalder at their next board meeting. They can sponsor Diana Kander’s new book. They can send 50 execs to the Lean Startup Conference. If engineers still think ideas need perfect architecture to scale infinitely on day one. If marketing teams are convinced that customers do not know what they want and therefore do not take time to understand the problem, the lean governance mindset is in vain.

It is like peanut butter with no jelly. Eric Ries and Steve Blank call this innovation theater.

The solution? Of course there is no one size fits all — but alignment is key. You need to look at the process holistically and not just as independent parts. Jonathan Bertfield (disclaimer, our parent company is owned in part by said Jonathan) does a great job describing this relationship as an innovation marketplace and not just as individual behaviors. My colleague at Pearson’s award winning Product Lifecycle realized that just like you need to have cross functional product teams for lean startup to work at the enterprise level, you need cross functional training to ensure alignment. (credit Gabe Gloege).

What is this training meant to ensure?

  • Does everyone believe in the basics (mindset) in the first place. Do we believe in evidence? Do we believe in hypothesis driven development? Do we believe in smaller bets on the search side of search and execute?
  • If so, are we working on the same mechanics. Are we asking the right questions at the right time. Are we both working off the same playbook. Do we all have the same definition of the riskiest assumptions. Do we all interpret corporate strategy the same way.

IF SO… you will start to turn a corner from innovation theater to innovation reality.


  • on the product side, teams are actually no longer afraid of “recommending pivots”
  • teams have no fear of failing fast and small
  • decision makers are not asking for 5 year plans behind the scenes during preliminary problem discovery
  • teams stop making up numbers just to “get funding”
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