3 Reasons to Buy this Book:
- Understand Eric Ries’ personal story behind developing the Lean Startup philosophy.
- Learn core, big-picture principles such as Innovation Accounting, Build-Measure-Learn, and Validated Learning.
- Find out how a startup can replace useless vanity metrics with metrics that actually measure success.
3 Reasons Not to Buy this Book:
- Void of details on practical use of principles.
- Tries to cover too much ground with its theory.
- Naive historical perspective on the teaching of corporate entrepreneurship as a career path.
This book was written by Eric Ries who was a cofounder of IMVU that Steve Blank invested in. Steve developed a method called Customer Development that emphasized a scientific approach startups could use to improve the success of their products through a better understanding of their consumers. Steve taught this method at Stanford and required Eric to take the course as a condition of Steve’s investment in IMVU. Eric’s book builds upon the work of Steve Blank. Therefore, The Lean Startup should be read with the knowledge that as of the date of the book’s publication (2011), Eric Ries had only recently developed his Lean Startup philosophy through work at IMVU, his later study into best management practices, the interaction with his blog readers, and Steve’s earlier work. As such, this is a young startup philosophy.
What You’ll Learn
The book does three main things:
- Articulates new ways for startups to know if it’s making progress
- Dives into detail on the core principles of the Lean Startup philosophy
- Applies Lean Startup to new startups, scaling startups, and existing large corporations
The main principles the book delves into are:
- Validated Learning. This is a process in which one learns by taking action and then measures it to validate what the effect was.
- Innovation Accounting. This is the application of the scientific method to the hypotheses that founders have about their business idea.
- Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. The specific loop through which one validates learning.
- Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The version of a product that allows the Build-Measure-Learn cycle to happen with the least amount of effort and development time.
Eric Ries’ goal in writing this book was to “put entrepreneurship and innovation on a rigorous footing.” He also states that “The Lean Startup movement seeks to ensure that those of us who long to build the next big thing will have the tools we need to change the world” (The Lean Startup, pg. 11). I believe his book does establish a good footing but the specific details on tried-and-true use of tools is not to be found. This is a very high-level view of this new philosophy that leaves the step-by-step specifics on using tools to someone else. You will mostly find stories that illustrate the Lean Startup philosophy in general.
The book does suggest that there is more to come in the future from the Lean Startup movement. This is very true, as books such as Running Lean and The Startup Owner’s Manual provide the specific details missing from The Lean Startup. The book seeks to please startupers and managers of large corporations, thus inevitably diluting its benefit to either type of reader.
My personal experience in starting a company tells me that the Lean Startup philosophy is great to have as a general framework for addressing startup issues. However, a third way exists next to the method of using too much front-end planning and that of the rigorous validated learning, which is to simply take any action to learn something new.
Lastly, Eric Ries states that “…entrepreneurship should be considered a viable career path for innovators inside large organizations” (The Lean Startup, pg. 267). From my biased view, the concept of “corporate entrepreneurship” as a viable career path is a concept that was developed by Babson College decades ago. Look no further than Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s CEO who is a Babson College MBA graduate and the most powerful businessman in Asia, who learned how to be a corporate entrepreneur at Babson long ago. As of 2011, Akio Toyoda is pushing Toyota to produce a lineup of 10 new hybrid models by 2015.
I think this is a great foundational book to understanding lean entrepreneurship practices that reads more like a story than a reference manual. It may not get you from point A to point B, but it will give you the big picture philosophy behind creating a lean startup.
Click here to check out The Lean Startup on Amazon.com
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