Discussing lean…

Since I am working on 2 startups, spuul.com, and the munchkin – I rarely read enough these days. I want to read. I instapaper a mountain of things, I have a stack of books, but generally by the time I have worked, spent time with the family and get through a weekend Financial Times – I am out of time.

However when I came across this, I have made the time to even read it a few times. There are so many angles and thoughts to cover in it. Not even sure where to start.

The one thread I am picking up on and sometimes would agree is the discussion about the Lean Startup movement and it’s impact on the world’s startups:

For an opportunist, it’s all about speed. Get the product out there as fast as possible to start gathering feedback and iterating, then iterate as fast as possible, pivot when you’re not seeing enough traction or when you have a better hypothesis, and give up when you don’t think it can work anymore, or when you run out of money.

If it doesn’t work out, opportunists are not going to double-down and throw good money (and time) after bad. They are honest enough with themselves to acknowledge check-mate. Or, as our Anonymous Founder put it, when they’ve “run out of moves”. There’s any number of things that may have gone wrong. Self-reflective opportunists learn from these mistakes. Either they misjudged the circumstances, or executed wrong, etc.

The Anonymous Founder is an Opportunist. I’m not even sure it was a conscious decision. He is the product of the culture of Silicon Valley, a culture that the Lean Startup Movement created.

The Lean Startup Movement has been the dominant school of thought in Silicon Valley for too long. I am an outspoken critic, because although it has given us a valuable tactical framework, it has removed from the conversation casus belli. For years now, Silicon Valley has talked of nothing but battles, and forgotten about war.

Now, we have an imbalance in the ecosystem. Visionaries are few and far between. There would be more, if founders followed their instincts, but they get drilled into the dogma of the Lean Startup. Which is fine, if you want to build a Lean Startup. But not if you want to build a big one.

The Lean Startup has taught us, wisely, not to be too attached to how we do things – to allow more room for qualitative feedback and data-driven experimentation in our development process. But it has also brought with it, unfortunately, a culture that discourages founders from becoming too attached to why we do things.

Starting a company is like going to war. You are declaring war on the status quo. War is costly and painful. Why would you do it?

Powerful thinking. It is not really that I am against the lean methods or the Lean Startup but sometimes I think it can become too formulaic and might lead people to lose a little of their passion. Not to say you should work your ass off on a dumb idea or one that bears no fruit but sometimes I think that based on your experiences, your team and your leaders that you might just have to stay focused to see something bear fruit. It might take time, it might be painful and it might not come with everyone patting your back but if you think it is the right thing to do, if your internal stats are showing some progress – then you might be on to something.

It still might take time. This means that all of your learnings might not be easily or quickly validated or disproved but being on the inside you should see some signs from your stats and customers that you are getting warmer or maybe you are getting colder. Sometimes you might have to make a gut call or a fly by the seat of your pants decision. This is how it works sometimes. This is what makes it fun and exciting.

For me it is like Lean Startup++ . Somewhat modified so that I take some of the best lean ideas, marry them with my experience and then combine them with the passion from the founders/investors to create something that I think is better but maybe not as easy to diagram.

Lots to think about. Lean or not. You have to just do it.

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