Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lean Start Up versus Entrepreneurial Spirit

Something has been bothering me for a while about the Lean Start-up revolution that seems to be happening. It's not so much about Lean Start-up but of some of the interpretations I have been hearing from peers.

My inquisitive nature and desire to constantly learn keeps me asking more.

The intent of this post is not to disparage a movement that clearly has business value and at a minimum asks people to be responsible for their decisions and not to over-create before receiving feedback.  

Actually, my goal is to support that movement as a good approach to initial product development by asking some experts in the field to openly consider the effects on Entrepreneur Spirit. This open dialogue to me can only add credibility.

One part of Lean Start-up that I have been hearing regularly is that you are "trying" something out before investing too much money into it.  This is a natural evolution of some of the concepts we work toward on a regular basis. For instance, the idea of "not following a plan" from the Agile Manifesto, or the experience of a constant feedback loop.

Some people have been telling me that a sort of "market trial" is done to see how people will react, and if the response isn't good, the start-up is stopped as being unmarketable and then terminated.

This has been a new "change" I've heard as an evolution from something that used to be about receiving early feedback and making appropriate adjustments. I used to hear about "delivering what people want".  That has recently changed in tone to "killing something before it starts".

Please consider that it might not always be the right thing to do to simply kill an idea because of initial feedback. I am "nervous" about the notion of allowing initial "market" feedback to negatively effect Entrepreneurial Spirit.

From what I have read and from peers I have spoken with, it is more about creating as little as possible to get initial feedback to decide what to do next. Awesome! 

I know that Lean Start-up is so much more, but just as in the Agile movement, there are "versions", I am concerned about an ongoing interpretation of using it to "determine start-up viability".

I think if this was the only approach in our history, we would not have many things that exist today;

Penicillin, the telephone, and the airplane are ideas that immediately come to mind. The way some people are approaching Lean Start-up as a "kill a product after feedback", these inventions would have never continued into reality.

I wonder, with this interpretation, would we have stopped making progress as a society? Imagine if this approach was used for Galileo or DaVinci's ideas?

As much as I appreciate the concept of non-waste, I am concerned that people will "blindly" follow a framework that (from some recent explanations I have received) appears to discourage risk-taking at the onset.

I believe that entrepreneurial vision should not be ignored.  Many entrepreneurs are willing to lose it all for their dreams and to give them a go.  
Please, do not try to take the entrepreneurial mindset from our society! 

If an entrepreneur did not have the willingness to risk it all "on a hunch or belief", that same entrepreneur would have a hard time helping other people to share their passion. This blind ambition and drive are an important part of life.  Without that drive and only "facts", it would be hard for an Entrepreneur to be willing to risk as much as they do.

Perhaps, instead of trying to avoid the risk of failure, we should focus on making it safer for this type of person to take risks. This is after all part of the philosophy of embracing agility. We value failure and learn from it. Actually, we encourage it to some extent.

I learned a long time ago that "fear of loss" is one of the greatest anti-motivators to innovation. 

Needing to test all your hypothesis first and ignoring your vision to what seems to be sort of a "group think" exercise.  People who blindly follow this idea will be left short of true innovation. I do not believe this is the intent of Lean Start-up.

I would be sad to find that no one ever risks anything anymore as we move forward. Instead of removing all risk, let's focus on helping people to work together to share in the risk or make it less painful for those that have risked and lost. I admire the person who is willing to lose everything for their dream.

Shared failures are important to life and evolution.  

I have done things that I know a Lean Start-up only approach to my ideas would have told me would never work. I know this for sure! Against all odds (and advice), I have been fortunate to have lived in a massive house in the country contrary to what I was told by initial market suggested would happen. I have also lived in my car for the same reason.


Ask yourself...


"Do I know anything in the market today 
that others would have said will never sell?".

Although I find the concept of Minimal Viable Product to be paramount to removal of waste and absolutely value the prospect of early and constant feedback, I have a personal problem with using the initial feedback to totally kill an idea. 

Please, let's not turn this truly awesome idea (and the intent of Lean-Start-up ) into something that kills creativity and innovation by accident.

I personally couldn't live with myself if I never failed at anything. It keeps me alive and improving. 

Also, there is the inevitable reality that an entrepreneur will likely just ignore us all anyways and do what they think it best in light of the information that's out there.  The reality is that this might all be moot anyway :->



Let entrepreneurs be entrepreneurs! We need them....

Especially the ones that are willing to fail no matter what others tell them!



Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile