Validation works best when you start small. The faster you can iterate, the faster your pace of improvement and innovation. By learning important lessons early, you can save time and money by avoiding investments in unnecessary infrastructure, manufacturing, and deployment. You can also minimize any potential risk from unintended consequences, particularly if you are working with vulnerable populations.
Programs in the social sector are often planned in painstaking detail, then deployed through large rollouts. This places a big bet on getting everything right off the bat. Inevitably, we don’t. Lean Impact replaces this linear process with an iterative one based on the scientific method. Design and implementation are melded into staged tests, each one building on the lessons of the last. Your solution should evolve, not from debates in a conference room, but from the data collected from the reactions and behaviors of real customers and stakeholders. Failure is a natural and essential part of the process.
This chapter will make the case for the Lean Impact principle of starting small, walk through the process of validation, and explore ways to accelerate learning. Once you confirm that you can deliver on all three pillars of social innovation – tangible customer value, an engine to accelerate growth, and meaningful social impact – you have a solid foundation to do more. As the saying goes, “Nail it before you scale it.”