The right tool for the job (part 3)

By: Steve Little, Principal with The Disruption Lab

The previous two blogs in this three-part series introduced you to the first and second phases of our Disruptive Innovation process, Discover and Design. In this final blog of the series, we explore the third phase, Validate.

There is a phase beyond Validate, but we end our series with the Validate phase.

I cringe a bit when I hear the mantra, “fail fast, fail often.” While I agree that we must discover what doesn’t work as quickly and inexpensively as possible, and I agree that if we’re not experiencing failure then we’re not working very far outside of the box. But the objective of experimentation is not failure but learning. Discovery is not a failure, unless you fail to learn. Let’s change the mantra to, “learn fast, learn often.”

Description of Validate Phase

“Initial plans for innovation initiatives are typically riddled with guesswork. As a result, the competitor that wins is rarely the one with the best initial plan; it is the one that learns the fastest.” (Govindarajan and Trimble, The Other Side of Innovation, p. 99)

“In the Lean Startup model, every product, every feature, every marketing campaign—everything a startup does—is understood to be an experiment designed to achieve validated learning.” (Eric Ries, Lean Startup, p. 55)

Learning underpins our validation process. Through lean experiments, rapid iterations, and learning-based pivots, we create a validated product or service. In our previous phases, we developed two important documents:

Each of these documents contain assumptions. During the Validate phase, we test each assumption. Some assumptions are tested in isolation, while others may be tested together. The objective is to quickly and inexpensively test all assumptions. Each test will result in success or failure (perhaps only a partial failure). When we succeed, we move on to test the next set of assumptions. When we fail, we learn. We use that learning to adjust our Value Proposition Canvas or Business Model Canvas. The cycle continues until all assumptions have been successfully validated.

Once the Validate phase is complete, you may have a marketable product (a Minimum Viable Product or version 1.0). Often, however, you will have multiple, successfully tested MVP components. In either case, the decisions now focus on build, launch, and scale, with the most important decision being whether this product or service becomes part of the core business or is spun off as a separate venture. We will address these decisions in future blogs.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.


Steve is a Principal of The Disruption Lab. Prior to joining The Disruption Lab, Steve served as the Principal Consultant for the Strategic Solutions Group at InfoWorks, a regional business and technology consulting firm based in Nashville, TN. While his consulting engagements at InfoWorks spanned several industries, the majority of his work was in healthcare.​

Much of Steve’s career has been in executive leadership roles at Ingram Content Group (formerly Ingram Book Group). Over his 15 years with Ingram, Steve was part of a high performance executive team that drove significant growth in revenue and profits through innovative customer partnerships and services. Steve’s leadership was characterized by adeptly leveraging technology and building responsive organizations through organizational design and development. Steve’s business experience ranges from technical responsibilities such as operations research, business analysis, and systems development to senior management responsibilities as CEO, Chairman, and board director.​​

You can connect with or ask Steve a question through The Disruption Lab community at


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