The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries has been a major step forward for entrepreneurs everywhere.

It provides as the book cover suggests:

“A new approach to business that’s being adopted around the world. It is changing the way companies are built and new products are launched.”

It outlines a new process (build, measure, learn), concepts and language e.g. A minimum viable product.

The lean startup shares many features of small wins innovation.

The similarities to small wins innovation

1. There is an emphasis on action.

In both approaches actually doing something is preferred to thinking or planning about doing something.

As Ries notes, “the goal of a startup is to figure out the right thing to build — the thing customers want and will pay for — as quickly as possible.”

There is no great reliance on static market-resaerch but on producing a product or solution and seeing what happens.

2. Both approaches are fast and iterative

Both processes rely on an iterative process. With the lean startup it is build, measure and learn.

With small wins innovation the process is create, test, measure, learn and share.

But in both cases the emphasis is on trying and adjusting or adapting based on user or market-place experiences.

And if there is a process this means that it can be learned.

3. There is an emphasis on learning

One of the principles of The Lean Startup is a concept Ries calls, Validated Learning. He believes that “startups exist to learn how to build a sustainable business.”

With small wins innovation one of the key steps is to learn and to make sure that learning is shared across an organisation.

4. There is a strong focus on measurement

In small wins innovation there is a step called measure and in The Lean Startup, Ries calls this aspect — Innovation accounting.

5. In both approaches there is an emergent quality

By this i mean that you cannot tell in advance what might happen with a new product or a test. Users and customers can constantly surprise innovators and react in often unexpected ways.

6. Everyone can play

With The Lean startup, Ries highlights the fast that entrepreneurs are everywhere and with small wins innovation anyone in an organisation can be involved in trying to create a new approach or challenge the status quo.

7. Start small
Both approaches highlight the importance of just making a start and to do so in a small way.

Ries in his book (page 93) gives the example of one of the fastest growing companies in the world — Groupon started with handmade PDF’s, a pizza coupon and a simple blog.

But there are key differences

– The Lean Startup is a methodology designed for entrepreneurs wanting to build a new business whereas small wins innovations is aimed at managers, leaders and business owners who work in an existing organisation.

– The outcome of The Lean Startup is a new product or service leading to a new business. The outcome of small wins innovation is a new solution or the changing of an existing process, product, procedure or practice.

– The small wins innovation process places more emphasis on sharing the results, learnings or insights with a larger group.

– Small wins innovation is a continuous journey whereas The Lean Startup might result in a pivot either to continue or stop.

– The Lean Startup places greater emphasis on developing and testing a minimum viable product whereas small wins innovation concentrates on developing a better solution to something that already exists.

The better solution might be to improve, make a process, product, practice or procedure faster, easier or delete it entirely.

– The Lean Startup is outwardly focused whereas Small Wins Innovation can be applied to external as well as internal problems or opportunities.

In Summary

Both approaches can complement one another.

In fact, The Lean Startup is increasingly being used by large, established companies to launch new products or services.

Managers, leaders and business owners can also apply the small wins innovation approach to stimulate and accelerate problem-solving and improving the productivity and collaboration of individuals and groups.

Both approaches can work beautifully together and present a new, often more effective way of innovating and driving growth.

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