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Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” offers frank advice for your tough problems. She helps leaders and teams do reasonable things that work. See her 18 books, blog, and other resources at and

Consultant, Speaker, Writer

Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman

Rothman Consulting Group, Inc.

How does innovation blend with agile product development?

Many people think that agile approaches allow for faster delivery. That might be true. However, the real power of the agile approach is the fast(er) feedback. As the team creates a possible product or solution, the team and the Product Owner (PO) offer each other fast feedback. Then, once the team agrees that a particular set of features will solve the problem, the PO (and with any luck) the team can receive direct feedback from the customer.
The product team uses the customer feedback to refine the features and also to decide on the next direction for the product backlog. The more frequently the PO and product team can address and progress the product backlog, the more feedback the team can offer to people who decide about the project portfolio.
However, having efficient feedback loops is only one of the pieces for an environment of innovation: we also need experimentation. The faster the feedback loop, the easier it is for any team to experiment. The product team may experiment with prototypes, or with minimum viable products in order to gauge customer reactions and measure engagement.
I happen to like experiments that disprove my hypothesis. Here’s a hypothesis I use a lot. We think we will attract some percentage of possible customers with a new offering, such as 10% of the total clicks. The experiment consists of creating a landing page and asking for an email signup or some other equally easy task. We receive 1000 visitors to that page. We receive 9 clicks. That’s less than the 10% we expected which is strong evidence to disprove that particular hypothesis. How-ever, since we didn’t spend a lot of time or energy on this experiment, the team can continue experimenting with other potential offerings – different ideas attempting to solve the customer’s problem [ ... ]


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