Agility, working through failure, adapting to customer needs and constantly learning from experience to grow – these are all good things for any business, and I’m sure most entrepreneurs would agree wholeheartedly. This makes it all the more surprising that so many businesses struggle to effectively adopt these traits.
After all, what business doesn’t want to make a product that its customers would love? And which business owner doesn’t want to grow their business? I certainly did, and applying the lean start-up method revolutionised my company and our products – as well as my thinking as an entrepreneur.
Popularised by Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup (2011), the lean start-up method is a business philosophy designed to help start-ups keep focused on their product and service by using a “build-measure-learn” approach.
At the very heart of the lean mind-set is a focus on adding value, to your business, your employees, your product or service and for your consumer in both a time- and cost-effective manner. Adding this value is an iterative, constant process: you build a product based on your idea and send it into the marketplace, then measure the consumer response and learn from it. What you learn goes back into product development to validate what you make.
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To inform this validation process, lean methodology helps you to make evidence-based decisions. Companies (like ours) that have online products, are at a natural advantage here – with access to big data at our fingertips, evidence of consumer behaviour is everywhere just waiting to be harnessed. But quantitative and qualitative data from a number of different sources will help steer you towards what will improve your customers’ experience.
By unlocking and analysing this you can find out what your consumers want and what they actually do with your product. We regularly add new features to our product to measure our players’ response and learn from it – ultimately delivering things that we can prove will give users a better product or service, which in turn helps your business grow.
The lean start-up isn’t just outward-looking, though. For it to work most effectively, everyone involved in your company needs to fully support the decision to go lean and, crucially, understand what it means. This means that from the senior management to the interns, the whole business should be on board with the lean start-up and know their role within it – a process which took a while to settle at Geonomics.
When you achieve this, you will discover just how the lean model can motivate your team. It provides an environment where everyone’s ideas count and no one is scared of failing; gone is the blame culture that can burden many businesses. They have ownership over their work, and take pride in what they do because they know they’ve played a critical role in making your fantastic product.
Related: Top five reasons why start-ups fail
This attitude to failure within the lean start-up model requires particular attention, so let’s look at an example. The Finnish gaming company Supercell, best known for Clash of Clans, were at one time the fastest growing company in the world. How did they react when a game or a project hit a dead end? They threw a party, before discussing what went wrong and what they could learn from it so it didn’t happen again.
You don’t have to break open the bubbly, but rethinking failure as a learning experience is a core part of the lean start-up. Discovering what doesn’t work will only bring you closer to what does, and as entrepreneurs we should celebrate having that knowledge.
Ultimately, the lean start-up is itself an experiment for your business. Apply it in an agile way; take the parts that work for your business, and discard those that don’t. Remember you can be a fan without being fanatical – there’s nothing less lean than following an entire business model just for the sake of it. If it’s used where it’s needed, the lean model can be as transformative for your business as it was for mine.
Henry Oakes is the Co-Founder of Geonomics, a gaming company that creates location-based games that players love.
Further reading on expansion: Diamonds in the rough: Identifying star employees