The Lean Startup methodology

Chris Howard

Being Lean means Being Average. 

The Lean Startup methodology has taken hold of Startupia by storm. Ever since Eric Reis published The Lean Startup in 2008, entrepreneurs, wantrapreneurs, and intrapreneurs alike flock to his methodology as if their professional lives depended on it.

I’m not here to bash the Lean Startup – it is an excellent framework with many excellent tools and techniques held within. However, I am here to discourage you from embracing it too early or having it be the default methodology to get really hard stuff done.

So, let me explain why you shouldn’t immediately rush out and buy The Lean Startup; to do so by default makes you nothing more than average.

Be Remarkable

Those of us who have been blessed to watch entrepreneurs turn ideas into some of the most extraordinary businesses this world has ever seen, all understand that these businesses have one thing in common: there is something truly remarkable about them. Whether it is a remarkable product, or a remarkable sales technique – there is a clearly identifiable piece of ‘magic’ that the founders had either created or embraced to achieve things way above and beyond the norm.

In my vernacular, I call this a ‘Founder Superpower’ (more to come in an upcoming blog).

You see, amazing businesses are always built on a strong founding mission (the who and why), and a well understood key ability which is way above and beyond what other entrepreneurs may be able to achieve.

One fine example of this approach is by Reza Merchant – the founding CEO of The Collective. Reza knows he has an extraordinary and ever-improving ability to design physical environments that make people rethink the way they may choose to live or work. He knows that this key ability drives their differentiator and keeps competitors at bay while always remaining ‘interesting’ to his target market. As such, when the wider team of The Collective make decisions on what to do – they ask themselves: “does this sale/concept/product idea/new hire embrace or enhance our ability to make extraordinary physical environments for living and working?” If they cannot defend a decision against that commitment, the answer is simply “no” and they move on without hesitation.

Importantly, this test of their key ability was made before any discussion on what methodology or framework (like The Lean Startup) to use. They understand that the true differentiator in any market is to be remarkable – not to simply design the same widget with different packaging.

When people create solutions that embrace and enhance their key abilities, they often enjoy what they do a lot more, craft solutions to problems many thought were out of reach, and create products, services, or methods which are truly remarkable. The Collective’s co-living and co-working locations, whether you love them or hate them, are remarkable.

So, how does this relate to ‘being lean means being average?’

Simple.

When people ‘go lean’, their default activity is to identify the smallest solvable problem and create a minimum viable product to solve that problem. Their time and effort is spent looking at what users need, and then creating the bare-minimum to demonstrate their ability to provide it.

This approach is almost always in the absence of taking the time to understand whether or not you are using your key ability. They are not testing whether the minimum viable product will be remarkable.

As such, any other motivated individual observing the same problem while also having an ounce of common sense, will have the capacity to create exactly the same minimum viable product – simply because you are not putting any of your founder-related, founder-unique super power inside it. Therefore, the sad reality in today’s flooded entrepreneurial market means that, so long as the idea is a good one, there will almost certainly be at least a dozen exact replicas of your MVP simply because it’s the most logical solution within the Lean Startup methodology.

Remarkable businesses don’t create logical solutions. They create remarkable solutions built on their ‘Founding Superpower’ and ruthlessly ensure it is embraced or enhanced within everything they do.

So, to be simply lean is to be simply average. Don’t be average – be remarkable – then inject that into the frameworks that work for you.

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