The lean startup problem

I suppose the first thing that comes to your mind after you read this title is that something is broken in the Lean Startup movement, and I believe that despite all the hype, that is inevitably true. For example, if you’ve read Steve Blank’s Startup Owner’s Manual, you would understand the depth of this endeavor: Trying to adapt the Lean Thinking principles to the startup problem. It was definitely a bold endeavor and more than just admirable; it gets results.

The dangers of the survey

In my opinion, the problem doesn’t originate from thinking but the unreasonable use of the tools. Say, for example, that you are about to start pursuing your idea, or you feel that something is not quite right in the way you address your target market. How do you find what problems exist in the mind of your customers? One of the possible (and seemingly easy) things to do that comes to your mind right away is a survey. If you just read the startup owner’s manual or you’ve been coached by a Lean Startup advocate – as in my case by many – the answer is to make a Landing Page which, in a sense, is another way of doing a survey.

There is a saying, “Ask no questions, hear no lies,” and it’s very much true in this case. The people are often not prepared to confront their real problems, act compulsively, or lack motivation and don’t pay the necessary attention. Furthermore, ask the wrong questions, and you’ll get an extremely misleading answer. Use that answer to guide your venture, and you can waste years of your life, not to mention possibly going bankrupt.

But it’s not entirely up to you as well. As Henry Ford put it: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” You will waste valuable time from your product development, building the fastest horses, when in fact, you should be revolutionizing the way we build cars. The only thing that could be wrong with your dreams is that you don’t believe enough in them.

The lean approach is the scientific approach

Lean, in essence, is the scientific way of thinking, problem-solving, and taking the proper course of action. It can be applied everywhere with miraculous results. And when it’s applied to the startup problem, it can help you surpass your set goals. But unfortunately, the advice to do a landing page to test your assumptions or pivot as necessary is not the Lean approach but just an approach (out of many), making it just very Bad Advice. It might have worked for somebody – fair enough – but the cornerstone of any startup advice based on experience is that different things work for different people, facing different problems and in different circumstances.

Final thoughts

You are an entrepreneur, an iconoclast. You take risks. Stop thinking about how to mitigate the risks and embrace them as the means to achieve your extraordinary goals. Your goals on growth. Before making another landing page, read first about Lean to understand the context of the Lean Startup. I would propose reading The Toyota Way FieldBook or visiting the Lean Enterprise Institute to find resources and learn more about the lean philosophy before going straight to the Lean startup.