The Unwritten Lean Gospel…
To my eyes, the whole Lean Startup thing seems to be little more than a nicely crafted piece of contemporary rhetoric, that sings an alluringly timely song engineers desperately want to believe is true… that through the magic of fast iteration, their crappy little startup can prosper despite knowing nothing about positioning, sales, marketing, buyer psychology, or indeed human nature.
Essentially, Ries sells a kind of techno-pipedream that Yes You Too can build a purist company that doesn’t need to sully its hands with all the grungy, old-fashioned business kruft (that every other business book ever insists you need to have as some kind of grounding), because by experimenting fast on eager early customers, you (supposedly) get to find out what works.
Put it all like that, it should be clear that this fetishizes incrementalism (i.e. ‘if made rapidly enough, many small steps can carry you far‘), and is in fact the opposite of (software and hardware) engineering as a discipline, sales as a discipline, marketing as a discipline, pretty much anything as a discipline… it’s anti-every-other-kind-of-knowledge. Put “The Lean Startup” on your bookshelf, and you should surely be able to throw all your other books away. Beguiling, isn’t it?
However, there are many other foolishly impractical messages I suspect The Lean Startup implicitly preaches, but which may not be immediately obvious:-
1. Hope big, dream small.
2. Fail fast, learn little.
3. Self-fund till you die. (For who on earth has a Sugar Daddy rich enough to fund such open-ended stuff?)
4. Alienate lots of early customers by testing lots of rubbishy iterations on them.
5. Don’t trust anybody’s goddarn theory, just iterate instead.
6. If you can’t A-B test if something works, don’t do it.
7. Customers are test subjects for your experiments, not people you have business relationships with.
8. Keep on iterating while the market changes around you (invalidating all your earlier tests).
9. It’s not a product business or a service business, it’s an iterating business.
10. Oh, and don’t forget to A-B test people on your team, that’d be a great way of [mis]managing people, right?
Have I missed any?