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Eric Ries - The Lean Startup
Eric Ries gained momentum for his book The Lean Startup by first starting a blog on the subject and accruing many followers. In a sense, he was following his own advice for the entrepreneur - to be able to follow a process rather than just jumping in first with a product. His philosophy is to start out in steps and to continually analyze the needs of the customer and how the product is meeting up to those needs. In the case of his book, Ries gained a loyal following first, which helped catapult his book into the ranks of best-sellers, a real measure of success.
The term "The Lean Startup" takes its name from the lean manufacturing philosophy of Toyota. This philosophy, which draws on the knowledge and creativity of individual workers and emphasizes minimal waste, is used by Ries to form a process for startups that stresses constant innovation with as little risk as possible.
Ries defines a startup as an organization that is dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. There are many organizations and companies that fall under this definition, whether they are a traditional startup or not, and the process can be beneficial to anyone interested in building a sustainable business. He discourages companies from building a solution before the customer has a problem, although most startups build the product/solution first. For Ries, success is learning how to solve the customer's problem. He focuses on a process of constant experimentation and being able to change course.
The term genchi gembutsu is highlighted in the book and means "go and see for yourself." It is a mantra of Ries in staying in touch with your customer or potential customers. The entrepreneur should create a minimal viable product as soon as possible and start testing it with potential customers. This process can save time and money on internal analysis. The entrepreneur should also continue to test the product with the customer. When it isn't working, it will be easier to change direction or pivot, the term that Ries uses. He defines a pivot as a structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product and its potential growth. Learning to pivot will help to minimize the uncertainty of a startup, because it requires constant checking and tweaking without a huge investment.
There are many interesting examples of companies that benefited from this approach, such as Ries' own instant messaging company and others like Groupon and Dropbox. It is definitely worth reading and drawing from his examples, but the most worthwhile concept is that of listening to your customers first. One of the best quotes on sustainable growth from the book is that "new customers come from the actions of past customers." The important thing is to keep going back to the customer for what is most engaging.
We like that philosophy.