This post was originally published on the Elabs blog, before Elabs and Varvet joined forces.
The Lean Startup Camp
Inspiration. If I have to pick one word to describe The New Context Conference held by Digital Garage in Tokyo November 3rd to 4th, it’s inspiration. CJ was invited to speak about integrated design and development.
The conference, also called Lean Startup Camp, was inspired by the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. A book that teaches entrepreneurs how to be more innovative, stop wasting people’s time and be more successful. The most frequently used words during the conference talks were lean, agile and design. Something that Digital Garage hopes will inspire the attendees to go out and change the way Japanese companies work today.
You need a compass, not a map
When working the agile way you need to know what direction you’re heading but not the precise way. Joi Ito talked about how things change along the way and how you should embrace that.
Our friend Ian McFarland, CTO at Digital Garage, held a keynote about the importance of design to make better software. A subject that the speakers and panels kept returning to throughout the day.
The first panel discussed how design is about experience, not looks, and how a designer’s most important job is to understand the user. It’s important to be agile about design, doing things in small iterations, doing a lot of testing and getting feedback. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is discovery, a learning process.
Why build something until you know if it will work?
Kate Rutter talked about how to use a MVP, Minimum Viable Product, to get useful feedback from users before investing too much time in building a full product. It can be a sketch on a paper or a really small application. Our friends at Hyper Tiny emphasised the importance of finding the one important thing about a product and focusing on that. Say no to all other features.
There seem to be a lot of rules when working agile. If you are new to the agile way this can feel discouraging, do you really need to follow the rules? Yes and No.
I like the comparison Joe O’Brien made between the agile way and blues music. There are a lot of rules, but when you know the rules you can break them and build/compose exceptional products/music.
Preparing, Sharing and Caring
CJ talked about how we work at Elabs, the importance of letting designers and developers work together. You should start every project with the whole team, preparing together. If everyone is in from the beginning there will be a better understanding between designers, developers and the client, which will result in a better product. During the project designers and developers can be more efficient by working in the same code base and pair programming. Last, the most important part is that developers care about the design and designers care about the code. Getting rid of the "not my job" mentality.
The first day was wrapped up with a talk from Janice Fraser. According to her the most important thing is to get out of the building, get to know your customers before you build your product. Learn who is going to use your product and what they are going to use it for. Make MVPs and remember that it’s hard to build a new product, it takes time. She emphasised the continuous cycle of: build - measure - learn, or think - make - check.
We had a great time in Tokyo and met a lot of interesting people. The Lean Startup Camp was a very well produced conference and we are very happy to have been a part of it.