Desirable, Feasible and Viable: three important lenses


Blog article / Friday, August 18th, 2017

The ‘balanced breakthrough model‘ (above), is an innovation model that I often show to clients and colleagues, because it provides a lot of clarity on how to ‘view’ a given project/design challenge. If you consider your project through these three lenses, you get an immediate sense of what’s important:

  • Desirable: how can we create an experience that is truly user-centered and answers to important needs our customers have, so that it becomes something they really can’t live without.
  • Feasible: what do we need to do in order to make this happen? What kind of technology do we need? What kind of people? Systems? Workflows? Basically everything that enables the desired experience
  • Viable: how are we going to make money with this, or cut costs? What’s in for the business? How can we justify our investments?

The ultimate goal of this model is (of course) that your value proposition finds it sweet spot right in the middle of the three circles, thus being desirable, feasible and viable – all at the same time.

So how do you go about this?

Well, that depends on the type of project that you’re in and the scope you’ve defined. In design-driven projects, you would typically ‘start’ with desirability, that is: you research, ideate and prototype until you are satisfied with an experience that fits your client’s needs, thus answering your ‘desirability question’.

From there, you move on to Feasibility (‘what kind of tech platform could we use to realize this new experience?’) and finally Viability: ‘how can we commercialize this’ (a great tool for this, is the well-known business model canvas). Once you have a general understanding of all three lenses, you sequentially iterate on them to improve your value proposition (consider them as ‘turning lenses’ – rather than a static concept).

However, there are other ways to navigate through the three lenses. For example:

Feasibility > Desirability:

  • Through a hackathon your team built a great technical capability, that potentially could be applied to a variety of problems/challenges, but you don’t know which one yet. Blockchain is good example of a great piece of technology that often ‘needs a problem’. From there, you enter the Desirability phase, to see what needs and customer pain points would be tackled by your newly created technical solution.

Viability > Desirability:

  • You and your (business) team have come up with a great idea to generate profits in novel ways, new to the business. For example, by offering 3rd party services on an app-platform. Or maybe you found a way to marginalize costs, opening doors for added functionalities and/or products. This would require you to move to desirability, to see if (and how) these ideas could take shape. Validation of customer behavior and eventually, validation of your new value proposition, will be crucial to see if your business model will actually work – because you know from user testing that the demand for the product will be there.

As you can see, both examples put Desirability second. In my opinion, Viability and Feasibility will always require Desirability as a direct second step: there must a be a reason why you’re selling or engineering something – or else you’re just creating a solution for a non-existing problem and that’s killing for your business, as well as your clients.

To go short: use the balanced breakthrough model to view your objectives and work through different lenses, in order to establish where you might be lacking insights and/or progress. There is no ‘one way’ to go about these circles, yet Desirability might be the most significant one: without a clear understanding of why you’re developing something – you might as well quit, frankly.

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