The Lean Startup method has been around since Eric Reis applied the philosophy for validated learning and iterating and took the startup world by storm. Entrepreneurs may have taken a class or two from the workshops that now dot the globe, but until now the Lean Startup model has been strictly tailored toward technology startups. Brant Cooper, with Eric Reis’ blessing, is rethinking how the Lean Startup philosophy is applied to most type of entrepreneurs and companies – not just tech startups – in his new book, The Lean Entrepreneur.
The gist of The Lean Entrepreneur is “about navigating change,” and “aims to help you create products people want, innovate with new ventures, and disrupt markets.” The methods that have guided the tech world, according to Cooper, are starting to find a foothold elsewhere. It helps you learn the ropes on how to build, get data-based feedback, learn from mistakes, iterate, and repeat – it’s the bootstrap plan of action. The book also shows its readers that there are some predefined strategies the tech startup world has embraced that can guide entrepreneurs to innovation.
One of those strategies is attention to customers. Think about the user-focused messages from the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – there’s (for the most) nothing old-school corporate about the way they approach their customers. And this relationship has proven to be a two way-street. Customers can help guide entrepreneurs and navigate the the startup scene … and, fingers crossed, win their loyalty.
At the same time it’s a challenge to find the delicate balance between listening, and listening too much. We’ve seen social startups rely too much on users for their feedback, and it’s clear the cycle of iterations followed by user rage is nearly the norm.
The solution, as Cooper explains it, is rather simple. If your business is in what’s called the “Sustaining Innovation” side, you’re probably sitting comfortably in a business that caters to an existing and known market. So your customer’s feedback in this situation is a precious commodity. They’ll have a pretty good idea about what’s a good and bad idea for a product they could have been using for years.
In retrospect, if you’re developing a business that’s intended to “disrupt” an industry, which is referred to as “Disruptive Innovation” in the book, there are myriads of unknowns about a brand new market. This is where you find early adopters, says Cooper, and you’d adjust your methods accordingly as you learn from these customers.
The Lean Entrepreneur‘s concepts are playing out in places like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, where consumer product entrepreneurs are naturally using the platform as a test for determining the product’s viability through customer feedback. And now these ideas are moving offline to the real world – where they could face the same successes and challenges. Just goes to show you that the Internet is leading the charge of innovation, in the virtual and actual worlds.