Learn and understand before you start building!

Rapid Learning Cycles Frameworks are intended to make innovation easier, streamline development processes and avoid frustration in product development. Syb Leijenaar is a practitioner of this method and applies it as part of a collaboration with PCV group. Here he explains just what this approach involves.

Syb Leijenaar
Syb Leijenaar

Syb, would you please introduce yourself?

Yes, I’d love to. My roots are in mechanical engineering and the design of mechatronic systems. In 2002, I developed a new type of lawn-mowing system and, along with an investor, founded my own company. Since 2008, I have worked as a freelance product developer. I have been involved in the development of products in a variety of sectors: medical technology, production facilities for the semiconductor industry, food production solutions, vending machines, consumer products and equipment for agriculture and horticulture. Over the years, I have developed my knowledge in areas such as Lean Project Management, Design Thinking, product management and logical thinking processes, among others. I’m currently employed as a consultant. A few years ago, I developed the Eco Clipper. This is a refinement of traditional mowing systems. I am forging ahead with the company of the same name in parallel with my other projects.

What do you prefer doing?

That’s hard to say. Variety is what stimulates me. I enjoy combining technical depth with knowledge of processes and business acumen. In short: overcoming obstacles. The combination of working for my own company and consulting for customers as they develop and introduce new products to market seems to be perfect for me. At the moment, I’m focusing on Eco Clipper, and usually advising on another project in parallel.

How did you come into contact with PCV Group?

Through a mutual contact of Bart Velthuizen and myself. PCV Group organises frequent networking meetings, which is where we met one another. Since 2010, we have worked together on a regular basis and on a wide variety of different projects.

What do you value in this collaboration?

The opportunity to devote myself entirely to questions from completely different companies. In terms of subject matter, the work is exiting. The clients are very interesting. Moreover, I wouldn’t want to miss out on the large network and expertise of the PCV Group team.  

You are an expert in Rapid Learning Cycles. What is that all about?

Rapid Learning Cycles Frameworks is an integrated method that has its roots in Agile software development and Lean product development, adopting techniques and tools from these approaches. It was developed by Katherine Radeka, from the United States. It can also be applied to product development. The primary goal is to be able to make better decisions by eliminating risks and uncertainty in advance. This avoids frustration and streamlines innovation processes.

How exactly does that work?

We have found that the concept is particularly well suited to pre-development. In this phase, you are usually sailing through uncharted waters. Of course, you can just push ahead and run the risk of getting lost. Or you can think about the best way to reach your goal and then get started. I think the second option is the most beneficial by far. When we apply Rapid Learning Cycles Frameworks to product development, we are concerned with two things: Firstly, we want to plan for all the important factors that will affect the process or the path to be followed. Secondly, it is crucial to gain as much knowledge as possible, and as efficiently as possible, about these factors and how they interrelate. In short: Learn and understand, before you start building! This requires a great deal of testing and experimentation in the early stages. The costs associated with test beds and building prototypes is much higher in the later stages of the process. Unnecessary mistakes in the later phases of development are expensive and frustrating.

How widely used is this approach?

There are already a few companies employing it in the Netherlands and Scandinavia. As far as I know, the method has hardly ever been applied in Germany so far. This could be to do with the fact they tend to think according to mechanical paradigms. The approach is more traditional. People there tend not to look at developments in the USA as much as people from other countries do. We in the Netherlands are very open to innovation. It would certainly be worthwhile for German companies to take a keen interest in this method.


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