Going ‘Lean’

My interest in technology startups recently led me to an emerging methodology in the industry called the ‘lean startup’. I find this approach to high-tech entrepreneurship quite exciting because of the pervasive relevance of its principles. The ‘lean startup’ methodology is not only for technology entrepreneurs. Rather, it can be employed universally to enable individuals function effectively under situations of extreme uncertainty. Examples of such situations would include running a traditional mom and pop store, innovating at a fortune 500 company, or building a successful career.

The stable business environment of the past enabled businesses and individuals to practice strategic planning. They analyzed past data, obtained insights – which were used to create forecasts – and created a plan of action for the future. This plan was then implemented ruthlessly; with fingers crossed, and heads in the sand.

Today’s dynamic and highly unstable environment calls for a different paradigm. It calls for Individuals and businesses that rely less on forecasting and planning, and more on a bias for action and learning; it calls for individuals that are willing to go ‘lean’.

Key principles of the ‘lean’ methodology include:

  • Create a minimum viable product, that contains only basic features (for your career, this could be your resume, or personal career pitch) .
  • Release that product to your target market.
  • Use customer feedback as a learning tool for improving your product.
  • Iterate as fast as you can towards providing the product that your customers really want.
  • Welcome failure as an opportunity for learning.

Eric Ries literally wrote the book on the lean startup. He does a pretty good job of distilling the essence of ‘lean’ in this interview:

Image by http://www.blogrollcenter.com

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3 thoughts on “Going ‘Lean’

  1. Very interesting article. Although I disagree with the part “product that your customers really want.” As this is possible in a stable product environment. By that I mean the product cannot be innovated further to increase customer satisfaction. Something on the lines of salt or pepper. Such an approach in case of innovative or hi end technology products could be disastrous as you are expecting customer to give you a feedback on something they don’t know how to use or are familiar with. Leading tech companies (Dell, Apple etc.) have always stayed ahead of the market because of their belief that they have something which the customers have never known existed and will want them.

  2. Hey Aditya,
    Interesting perspective. I would argue that Apple doesn’t really use the ‘lean startup’ methodology. They are known for their ‘stealth r&d activities’; keeping a product under lock and key until it is ready for the big launch. However, I am sure that they apply lean principles during the product development process by interacting with potential customers and incorporating their feedback into the product.
    Indeed, sometimes customers don’t know what they want. Still, when we create that thing for them, we have to listen to their response to it, and leverage these responses in our future product development iterations.
    Thanks for your feedback 🙂

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