Book Review – Lean Startup By Eric Ries

Lean StartupIf you follow the technology startup scene or you are part of a company that is always looking out for the latest thing around innovation then you should have heard of the term lean startup.  The Lean Startup written by Eric Ries in 2011 helped popularize the concept and explain the principles involved in developing businesses, products and services the lean startup way. Eric Ries is an entrepreneur who had been involved in starting companies that failed and succeeded, but his learning for lean startup came from his success rather than failure.

Ries believes that startup success can be engineered by following the right process, therefore it can be learned and taught. He disagrees with the notion that startup success is down to having good genes or being in the right place at the right time or even being a visionary. From his point of view entrepreneurship is a kind of management which is different from the traditional management we know, but management nonetheless.

The Lean Startup according to Ries is a book for entrepreneurs and the people who hold them accountable, but the principles can also apply to “intrapreneurs”, people adopting the entrepreneurial mindset within an established organisation. Ries states that the lean startup has five principles which guide the book:

  1. Entrepreneurs are every where
  2. Entrepreneurship is management
  3. Validated learning
  4. Build-measures-learn
  5. Innovation accounting

The book is organised into three parts titled – Vision, Steer and Accelerate. Each part consists of a number of chapters which is briefly introduced below.

Part one – vision

  • Chapter One: Start – discusses the root of lean startup and why entrepreneurship is management.
  • Chapter Two: Define – defines who an entrepreneur is and what a startup is.
  • Chapter Three: Learn -discusses the importance of learning and startups and the necessary type of learning, particularly validated learning.
  • Chapter Four: Experiment – explains the importance of using experimentation to test products and services and how crucial it is to launching a startup or creating new products and services.

Part Two – Steer

  • Chapter Five: Leap – deals with the issue of engaging with customer and gauging how they interact with your product using the ” value” and “growth” hypothesis.
  • Chapter Six: Test – explains the concept of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) which is instrumental to using the Build-Measure-Learn framework. The MVP is what is used to drive the product experimentation process.
  • Chapter Seven: Measure – Explains how to measure the success level of a product in an experimental way. It also introduces the concept of Innovation Accounting.
  • Chapter Eight: Pivot (or persevere) – The purpose of measuring is to identify how a product or service is doing , but after you collect the data what do you do? This chapter discusses what decision to take once data comes back from the experiment and why.

Part Three – Accelerate

  • Chapter Nine: Batch – discusses how startups can use small batches of experiments to test products and services without committing to large amounts of upfront investment.
  • Chapter Ten: Grow – explores the metrics startups should use to understand their growth as they add new customers and discover new markets.
  • Chapter Eleven: Adapt – shows how to build an organisation which is flexible and able to adapt to change. One which does not become bureaucratic or dysfunctional.
  • Chapter Twelve: Innovate – when companies grow big they can lose the ability to innovate, but that does not have to be the case. This chapter outlines techniques that can help established companies to keep innovating.

There are two more chapters, Epilogue: Waste not, which emphasizes how the lean start up methods can reduce waste during innovation and Join the movement which provides information on how people can join the lean startup movement.

Although this can seem at times like a difficult book to read, it is one full of very useful information for anyone involved in any kind of innovative work, be it building a startup or creating new processes, products or services within established organisations. Teams can also use the ideas in the book to improve existing services and processes. The lack of engaging visuals is something I found challenging while reading the book, but the use of real life and engaging stories makes up for that.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely yes and if I were to rate it on Amazon, it would be a minimum of 4 stars. 

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