The Lean Startup – What it is, How it was Born

One of our most popular posts to date has been a preview of Eric Ries’ new book,  The Lean Startup.  Our previous article (before the book was released) compared past product developing life cycles to Ries’ “approach to creating continuous innovation,” but could not explore the subject in the depth that Ries’ full work would offer. Now that we have a copy, I will discuss each of the four major sections in its own post.

The Lean Startup - by Eric Ries

Introducing a new way of thinking:

If innovation is born from the simple conviction that there must be a better way, than Eric Ries has written a fitting introduction for his work. Within the first few pages  he shares with his readers how he reached the point where he was willing to throw out the traditional rulebook on entrepreneurship and product development- and take a risk on a new methodology for managing and developing within a startup.

He describes the dramatic moment when he stood in the rain and parted ways with his first partner, realizing that he had taken a huge and exciting leap with his first company- and fallen flat on his face. He explains how he felt duped by what he calls the “myth of entrepreneurship,” – the belief that a great product at the right time is the key – “if you build it they will come” (2). Frustrated with this false sense of predestined glory, he tries an entirely new, entirely different approach at his next company. Rather than build a complete product before release, the product will be released as a bare-bones barely functional product, then continuously tested by real users and altered based on their experience and needs. To the surprise of nearly everyone involved- it is a runaway success. Time and time against Ries is told the Lean Startup method “could never work,” and yet it does, eventually “blossom[ing] into a global movement” (7).

So what is the meat of this program? To the author there is more to finding startup success than effective product development – his method is a philosophy, a management style, and a point of view.

In the introduction he presents the reader with his “5 Principles of the Lean Startup.”

1.)Entrepreneurs are Everywhere – Entrepreneurs are not defined by industry or company size, but by their attempt to create a new product or service “under conditions of extreme uncertainty” (8).

2.)Entrepreneurship is Management – A company is an institution rather than a product, and management should be tailored to suit the aforementioned “context of extreme uncertainty.”

3.)Validated Learning – No element of the original vision should go untested, find what actually works.

4.)Build-Measure-Learn – Build products, measure response, learn what is working and what isn’t.

5.)Innovation Accounting – Measure progress, set goals, and prioritize. In short; hold everyone accountable.

Ries successfully builds the reader’s confidence in himself and his strategy, while honestly reliving his own failures and addressing the reality that most startups flounder. He then breaks the book into 3 parts-Vision, Steer, Accelerate.

Check out next week’s post for a short summary and critique of Part 1, “Vision,” and stop by your local bookstore to pick up your own copy of Ries’ highly original work: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

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