Delving Deeper: An analysis of Section 2 of Eric Ries’ new book, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.
In the section of The Lean Startup entitled “Vision,” Eric Ries outlines the importance of having a clear vision, without losing oneself in the detail of a master plan. Before one finds a strategy, one must be certain that one’s assumptions are correct about what the customer wants. What would be the benefit of creating a feature that the customer doesn’t ever use? Instead, Ries uses the metaphor of a rocket versus a car (21).
When we drive a car, we understand generally where we are going and how to get there, but our success depends upon our ability to adapt, to interact with our surroundings. We may travel to the same location everyday for work, but each drive does not involve precisely the same touches to the break, shift of gears, and turn of the wheel. By comparison, when a rocket is launched, every single action must be carefully planned. Ries argues managing a successful startup is like driving a car, we must react and adapt, engaging in the cycle of “Build-Measure-Learn,” because to simply continue based on ones initial assumptions, with no learning process, means inevitable failure.
One major problem Ries claims to have had with the management of Startups, is the ingrained belief that management equates to bureaucracy. But some guidance is necessary to avoid the inefficient and expensive failures that engineers fear. According to Ries, the solution is to experiment.
Ries does not just try to challenge his reader’s attitude towards management, he also attempts to challenge the common conception of a “startup.” A startup can be a large, well-funded branch of an establish company, it can be a local Mom-and-Pop shop, or it can even be a newly formed government agency- because it is any “human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty,” regardless of size, industry or sector (27). To survive, a startup must innovate or die.
To truly get a feel for Ries’ message I would encourage anyone to read his book, but if there is one clear direction given in “Vision,” it is that learning is the key to success. Learning, not as an excuse for failure but as part of a methodical experimental process to discover what customers want, is imperative to startup success. It is the key to avoiding wasted time, energy and money. Ries calls this “validated learning… backed up by real empirical data from real customers” (48). Finally, towards the end of the section, Ries breaks down this process further by delving into the questions that each experiment should ultimately attempt to answer, because ‘success is not delivering a feature, success is learning.’ After all the feature is more than useless, it is a dangerous waste of valuable resources if the consumer won’t use it.
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