Friday, November 8, 2013

The Lean Startup

Sharing a few favorites from The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries.  Even though I am not starting my own business any time soon or even ever, I do see clear connections between entrepreneurship and reshaping the way schools are structured.  Often Startup and Schools are rarely mentioned in the same breath unless it is in reference to a charter school.  However, the entrepreneurial spirit needs to be applied to more traditional public academic institutions.  Building unique pathways within a public school is an area worth investigating.  The mindset and process disseminated in The Lean Startup serves as a guide to reflect on established structures and begin the process of thinking of new paradigms, programs, and academic pathways.


A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

Lean thinking is radically altering the way supply chains and production systems are run. Among its tenets are drawing on the knowledge and creativity of individual workers, the shrinking of batch sizes, just-in-time production and inventory control, and an acceleration of cycle times

The goal of a startup is to figure out the right thing to build—the thing customers want and will pay for—as quickly as possible. In other words, the Lean Startup is a new way of looking at the development of innovative new products that emphasizes fast iteration and customer insight, a huge vision, and great ambition, all at the same time.

Instead of making complex plans that are based on a lot of assumptions, you can make constant adjustments with a steering wheel called the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. Through this process of steering, we can learn when and if it’s time to make a sharp turn called a pivot or whether we should persevere along our current path

Leadership requires creating conditions that enable employees to do the kinds of experimentation that entrepreneurship requires

the fundamental goal of entrepreneurship is to engage in organization building under conditions of extreme uncertainty, its most vital function is learning. We must learn the truth about which elements of our strategy are working to realize our vision and which are just crazy. We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want. We must discover whether we are on a path that will lead to growing a sustainable business

The question is not “Can this product be built?” In the modern economy, almost any product that can be imagined can be built. The more pertinent questions are “Should this product be built?” and “Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?

At Toyota, this goes by the Japanese term genchi gembutsu, which is one of the most important phrases in the lean manufacturing vocabulary. In English, it is usually translated as a directive to “go and see for yourself” so that business decisions can be based on deep firsthand knowledge

Numbers tell a compelling story, but I always remind entrepreneurs that metrics are people, too. No matter how many intermediaries lie between a company and its customers, at the end of the day, customers are breathing, thinking, buying individuals.