Monthly Archives: April 2010
Learning cycles, or rapid bursts of learning, help the innovator to frame an innovation problem. An innovation is needed when you set-up a gap in your mind between the current situation and what needs to be solved. Or stated as a problem, what you need but don’t have, or have but don’t want.
Recently, our friend John shared a story with a group of us that the Hubble II telescope was envisioned years before it went into orbit with technologies that did not yet exist. The telescope required 10 new innovations to technical problems that were identified, but had never before been solved. These innovations were the gaps that needed to be solved. Learning cycles help to rapidly close the predefined gaps. A learning cycle is a rapid cycle to move through the following stages: Planning, Design, Building (or prototyping), Testing, and Reviewing the Results.
In our simple illustration in this blog, we set-up a gap (not a terrible technically challenging one – just new to us) of setting up a blog about innovation and lean development. We are initially just writing about the process of discovery that we are going through.
In learning cycle 1, several questions were stated. Next the tasks are defined to answer each question.
Regard the question of what tool to use … we create a plan to answer this rapidly. Several people were consulted about which blog tool to use. We also did some research by reading the book Sociable! by Shane Gibson and Stephen Jagger. Many options exist from self-created and added to a custom web page to one built by a web developer. All recommendations pointed to WordPress, however, the recommendation also includes creating your own web presence. So for us, the solution involved building this WordPress blog spot and linking it to our permanent web address. The test was to prototype and start using it.
Development objectives are clearly stated as problem statements, and today our first learning cycle objective is “getting started with blogging when you are new to the blogosphere“. Since we are new to blogging, we knew that the first objective would have a number of hurdles to overcome. In this learning cycle, we broke the objective of getting started into several questions.
- What is the correct blogging tool?
- What are the elements of a successful blog?
- How dynamic does a blog need to be?
- How do you add value by blogging?
Learning cycles are designed to discover something unknown (in this case blogging). The discovery process is called a “heuristic” process. Something is “heuristic” problem solving when you do not know the outcome, and you don’t know yet how to get there. The important elements of setting up a learning cycle are to accurately state the problem and then to ask the right questions which you will then research and answer.
We (Mark Swets and Tim Schipper) have written a book (Innovative Lean Development) which is about applying learning cycles and lean principles to the discovery process in Product and IT Development. Our intent is to apply learning cycles to learn about blogging. Learning cycles are rapid bursts of learning to accelerate the development of something new and innovative. They can be applied to create new solutions, services, products, business models, etc. The intent of learning cycles is to speed up the discovery process. Since blogging is a new area for us, we thought, “Hey, why not apply learning cycles to the development of our own blog.”
So this is the start of our journey. For the initial series of entries, we are going to write about learning cycles and how we are using them to learn how to blog. We hope you find it interesting and valuable, and we are interested in your thoughts and ideas.