For the past year or so, the tech world has been obsessed with the idea of the lean start up.Essentially the lean start up is a set of principles, developed by Steve Blank, and others like Eric Reis, that gives start ups a road map to develop, test, and develop their products some more, until they find the right “product-market fit.”
A major part of the Lean Start Up methodology is the idea that start ups must be agile and ready to "pivot" at any time. If the product does not seem to be catching on, then try something completely new. Don’t debate what to do next, just ship it, test it and analyze the results. The new conventional wisdom says that no one is smart enough to figure out what people want, you just have to give them enough choices and they will tell you what they want by their actions.
The pivot has gone from novel to sexy to cliché in a matter of months, but the truth is, the pivot and the economics behind the lean start up methodology are at the heart of a very real entrepreneurial revolution that we are in the midst of. However, I also see many dangers in this new way of building businesses. The new rallying cry suggests that ideas do not matter and execution is everything. On this point, I disagree. A poor idea with great execution won’t work, and pivoting to a new bad idea, no matter how great your execution is, won't result in a breakout success.
Idea’s are critical. As entrepreneurs we are creating the future and we need to think about and develop products that help people, solve problems, create value and, most importantly, have repeatable, scalable business models at their core.
The cost of development and time it takes to launch a new product has decreased tremendously in the past few years. This does not mean that the time and hard work it takes to come up with a new idea for your new business model has decreased. In fact, I would argue that because it is so easy to roll out and test new products, the ideas behind those products are that much more important. Every startup team with solid engineers is on the same level from a technical standpoint. So the new “secret sauce” is in the well thought out, innovative, disruptive, game changing ideas that happen to have a business model embedded in them (see Groupon, Living Social, Kickstarter, etc.).
De-emphasizing the importance of the idea behind a product also makes it very easy to give up on your idea if it doesn’t take off immediately. Most great products are not immediately adopted by the population at large. Adoption only happens after the right tweaks, changes and honing. Minimizing the value of the idea you are pursuing gives you permission to skip the hard work when something doesn’t work out perfectly. An idea that you know, deep down in your gut, solves a very real problem, will eventually become a successful business if you are persistent and continue to pursue it and execute in new and innovative ways.
Sifting through a million variables to find a business model is the hardest thing you will ever do -- I know; I’m smack in the middle of it. There is no short cut. There is no get rich quick scheme and the Lean Start up Methodology should not become an excuse to quit when things get hard. Instead, this methodology should simply provide a framework for how to create a successful business from scratch.
Just remember, before there is creating a business, there is an idea. And that idea, or some variation of it, will become your business.
Ryan Healy is the Co-Founder & COO of Brazen Careerist, a career management resource for young professionals. He Co-founded Brazen Careerist in late 2007 after gaining national notoriety in the HR/Recruiting industry through Employee Evolution, his blog about young professionals in the workplace.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business's development and growth.