We are starting to embrace the concepts and principles of Lean Startup to help guide our efforts around new product development and innovation at Daxko. At its core, Lean Startup is a set of ideas and principles that help us quickly learn what customers want, and just as importantly, what they don’t. We’ve been using an Agile software development process to drive our software product development for a few years now. Agile is great at helping teams iterate to develop a solution to our customer’s needs. While Agile embraces the fact that we don’t know the solution to a problem when we begin development, Lean Startup embraces the notion that we don’t understand the problem either.
Daxko hosted a live stream of the 2012 Lean Startup conference on December 3rd, 2012. After reading Eric Ries bestseller, The Lean Startup, I was excited to attend this year’s 3rd annual event. The conference was hosted in San Francisco but was live streamed to many cities across the world. Many of my Daxko peers as well as a number of others from around the Birmingham technical and startup community attended the livestream that Daxko hosted. The day-long event included many speakers from across all types of software and hardware companies–and even a few surprising fields such as education and mushroom farming.
“People don’t want a 1/4 inch drill; they want a 1/4 inch hole.”
- Steve Blank
There were a lot of good take aways for me. I loved the diversity of the companies represented and getting so many different perspectives on how Lean Startup principles are helping them innovate. Here are a few of the highlights for me:
- Vanity metrics are success theater.
They blind you to a lack of product/market fit, commit you to your original vision without agility, and get you invested in appearance, not reality. If you’re looking through your metrics looking for one that makes you look good, then you’re searching for a vanity metric.
2. Focus on improving one thing at a time. Build, Measure, Learn!
Build an MVP that solves a simple business problem. Talk to your customers and find out if your solution solves a real problem for them. Take what you learn from talking to customers and make the product better. Rinse and repeat!
The best insights come from watching your customers use your products.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of paper prototyping.
- Everyone can draw
- Sketching is a shorthand for thinking through ideas
- Use team sketching
- Aim for lowest responsible fidelity
5. “Vision guides experiments, experiments validate vision” – Andres Glusman
6. Important things to measure:
- Sales volume
- Relevant growth
7. APIs are everything.
Think platform over product. Build internal and external APIs. Build the API and then build a product on top of the API. This makes it easier to build integrated products and solutions. It also makes it easier for others to build on top of your product. This is a win/win situation because it allows others to add to your product’s value proposition.
8. Put the right people on Lean Startup projects!
Who is better at iterating and learning? Who is better at building robust, scalable, solutions? These aren’t the same people. You need people that are great at quickly putting together something that will test your hypothesis and gather feedback but you also need people to build solid, scalable solutions once you have an established product. Put the right people on the right types of projects and watch them thrive.
9. Large organizations can operate as a network of Lean Startups
Scott Cook from Intuit talked about how all large companies “get stuck” and fail to innovate largely because they fail to change how and where decisions are made. Scott explained that he has instilled a culture of experimentation and created a “network of lean startups” that are free to experiment and learn in order to help drive innovation.
10. Four roles of the leader of the innovation age:
- Set the grand challenge
- Instill the right systems and culture to enable fast experiments
- Live by the results of experiments
- Operate using the same rules and discipline
Jason B. is a Quality Assurance Manager who feels right at home in a tent, on a trail, or paddling whitewater.