Lean through Location

Recently we have been discussing a number of concepts related to operating in a lean or agile manner. Taking our product out of its previous incubation-like support environment, and teaching it to walk on its own two legs has necessarily resulted in a rigorous process of adaption and re-development. With books such as Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup punting experimental and lean methodologies when cultivating the start-up business, something struck a chord when we looked at our own situation.

Our team in South Africa initially developed the Innovation Cafe, in tandem with an innovation advisory project run for a client by the Innovation Agency. As it began as an experimental solution for the client, we pulled resources into the project as and when required. Over the years it grew into a fully commercialized software product with its own core development and tech team alongside it.

Now, as the Innovation Cafe undergoes its transformative shift into a stand-alone product based in California, the support dynamic has taken on a new form too. Our original designer has been brought back onto the team and operates out of Germany, while our product development team has remained in South Africa. With testers in India and strategic operations taking place in Johannesburg, London and San Jose we have become a geographically disparate system of activity.

What this has resulted in is the inability to effectively operate in a traditional manner, as conversations and developments in different parts of the world provide a constant disruptive force to our journey. This, we have come to realize, is a blessing in disguise. It has enabled us to maintain an agile mind-set and constantly be prepared for changes and adjustments to our existing plans.

We have developed the ability, as we continue to experiment and test our product with customers, to be nimble and highly responsive to change. Our disparate locations have imposed a type of forced agility, and its unintended effect keeps us innovative.