Generating Knowledge Through Lean Product Development

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 10-20-20

Effectively and efficiently generate knowledge through lean product development.

Ask someone in product development what they produce, and they will likely say specs, tests, drawings, models, and other such artifacts. But those are only artifacts. They are manifestations of what you are truly producing, which is knowledge. Knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Knowledge of what customers want and what they don’t. Knowledge of what is optimal and what is not. Knowledge is what you’re producing in a lean product development system of work. 

Then the goal is to produce knowledge both effectively and efficiently. Effectively means two primary ingredients. First, we have to define the knowledge that we need to solve. This means defining knowledge gaps, or learning goals, for the work ahead. If we already knew everything we needed to know, then I would argue it’s not product development but just product configuration. Second, it means designing your work around the purpose of generating knowledge. This means experimentation, testing to fail rather than just specs, and so on.

The other aspect is to learn efficiently. That’s because resources are limited, and we must generate the most knowledge possible for each unit of invested effort. This includes aspects such as fast and simple experiments to generate knowledge quickly, as well as killing projects as soon as possible (but not too soon, as our friend Belle Englebach points out in In Lean PD, Aim for Quick Kills; But Not Too Quick). This means you must look at and manage your portfolio from a knowledge perspective, and not just a market-fit perspective. Knowledge reuse is another method to improve efficiency, ensuring you don’t waste resources relearning what was already learned. 

Fundamentally, your lean product development organization should be purpose-built for effectively and efficiently generating, capturing, and reusing knowledge towards the pursuit of innovation and ultimately, delivering optimal value to the customer. 


Do you have a transformation strategy for lean product development? If not, contact Jamie Flinchbaugh for a discussion about how to build one.