John Jakovich

Chief Innovation Officer, Tessitura

Want big results? Start smaller


5 min

Let’s say you’ve got a great idea.

You’ve imagined a new way to improve your organization’s [insert specific program, product or process here]. You believe your plan has the potential to [increase revenue, enhance customer service or insert another amazing, much-needed benefit].

However, with limited time and budget, you’re challenged to make room for anything beyond your day-to-day tasks, deadlines and responsibilities. Even if you could find more hours and money, you worry about the dreaded buy-in. What effort would it take to convince others to give your new idea a chance?

If you want big results faster, you might need to think smaller.

It’s easy to believe that impactful innovation can only be achieved through herculean endeavors. Or you might fall into the trap of thinking that truly creative exploration is only within reach for the largest organizations with the most resources.

Here’s the truth: Everyone can innovate. But, perhaps surprisingly, if you want big results faster, you might need to think smaller.

To meet today’s complex and rapidly changing environment, organizations will need to innovate differently. To do that, they must make innovation routine.

Spur innovation through validated learning

There’s nothing magical about innovation. Innovation is a process. It can be trained. It’s repeatable. But the key to weaving innovation into your day-to-day work is embracing the technique of validated learning.

Validated learning offers a scientific approach to entrepreneurial thinking. The concept was popularized by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup, though its philosophy can be applied to any initiative. Validated learning involves testing small units of progress. The goal is to measure the effect of your work quickly by putting it in front of your audience. This will help you ascertain if you’re on the right track. If not, you have time to pivot while your investment in the proposed solution remains low.

Innovation is a process.

Validated learning can be used for projects large and small. The same approach can be employed whether you’re investigating improvements to your museum’s membership program, your aquarium’s ticket offerings or your theatre’s box office processes.

Here’s how validated learning breaks down in five steps.

1. Formulate a hypothesis or goal. This is the question you’re trying to answer, the problem you’re trying to solve or the opportunity you want to explore.

2. Identify a minimum viable product, or MVP. Your MVP is a prototype. It should possess just enough features to test at least part of your hypothesis. An MVP allows you to gather maximum learning with the least effort. To choose the right MVP, answer these questions:

  • What’s the smallest thing you can do to make the most impact?
  • What’s the smallest change you can make to learn the most?
  • What metric will give you the most insight?

3. Perform experiments. Put your MVP to work. Gather and analyze data from your audience.

4. Learn from the results. Based on your findings, you could choose to pivot. You might abandon your original idea for an alternative. Or you may decide to persevere and improve your idea using what you’ve discovered.

5. Repeat. Devise new tests. Each subsequent experiment helps you learn and make more informed decisions.

Validated learning allows you to develop, protect and test new ideas.

Why does validated learning work?

Validated learning allows you to develop, protect and test new ideas. The process works because it offers several benefits to launching new ideas without this vetting.

  • It centers customers. Validated learning is a feedback loop that illuminates what’s most valuable to your customers. You identify what they need from your organization rather than what you think they need.
  • It assumes iteration. You’re not forced to know all the answers before you try something. Your ideas are allowed to evolve based on data and real experiences.
  • It fosters adaptability. In validated learning, you’re encouraged to experiment. You learn from your mistakes and fail forward, progressing with each step.

Learn from your mistakes and fail forward.

Experimenting is hard. Validated learning reduces the risk. It allows you to test ideas in small, manageable steps to avoid large-scale disasters.

When you use validated learning, you alleviate the fear of potential failure. You encourage a culture of continuous improvement. Try it, and you’ll likely find it’s easier to add innovation to your to-do list.



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John Jakovich

John Jakovich

Chief Innovation Officer

John Jakovich leads Tessitura Network’s technology teams.

Prior to joining Tessitura Network in November 2015, he had spent more than a decade as a senior technology leader working with some of the non-profit industry’s largest organizations and within the Tessitura Network ecosystem. He was the Vice President of Technology at SofTrek Corporation, a provider of non-profit CRM systems for philanthropic organizations and, before that, Chief Information Officer at Jacobson Consulting Applications (JCA), a firm that provides strategic and technology consulting to non-profit organizations.    

John has over 20 years of experience in IT management and software development for enterprise systems, the majority of which he spent developing business intelligence solutions for the non-profit industry. He studied computer science at California State University Chico and San Marcos and started his engineering career in the dynamic southern California internet start-up market of the mid-nineties.  John worked at several successful start-ups in the e-commerce and artificial intelligence and eventually landed at Kintera, Inc. (later acquired by Blackbaud Inc.).  

John lives in Fort Collins, CO. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, taking advantage of the active Colorado lifestyle, including snowboarding, hiking and running.

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