The Lean Startup – Eric Ries

“It’s moving leaders from playing Caesar with their thumbs up and down on every idea to—instead—putting in the culture and the systems so that teams can move and innovate at the speed of the experimentation system.” – The Lean Startup

Regular readers will note I’ve been offline for a while – my apologies.

Say you have 100 envelopes to address, stuff, and seal. What do you do? Most people would address them all, fold them all, seal them all, etc. Sadly for most people, this is wrong. It is actually faster to do them one at a time! (there is video evidence, honest). Why? Because moving 100 envelopes around is cumbersome, and takes time. Rather than moving piles repeatedly, it’s better to do them in a small batch. Doing them step by step may improve individual performance, but the system performance is bad. In fact, even if it took the same amount of time, the usual method is risky. What if you address all 100 envelopes, and realize the letters don’t fit?

What’s the point? Businesses should do the same. Rather than coming up with an amazing idea, building huge factories, developing vast numbers of the product, and selling them all at once, companies should try to be in continuous deployment. They should be releasing dozens of small changes per day and testing them on small groups of consumers.

The defining feature of a startup, says the Lean Startup, is uncertainty. They aren’t sure who their customers are or what they need. As a result, the key resource is information. Startups must therefore focus on learning above all else. To do so, they need to experiment, try new things, and piece together an awareness of what their context is all about. From that insight, all else in the book flows: that startups should have fast cycles, small batches, develop minimum viable products, etc.

It’s a powerful insight, and one that firms, governments and individuals are usually terrible at. Even in our own lives, it probably doesn’t make sense to come up with a single huge master plan. Rather, we should try new things, experiment, and see if they work for us. If we do, we can do more. If not, we can do something else. Life, as with startups, is all about learning.

Overall, I’d highly recommend the lean startup. A powerful insight into life and business.

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