Successful businesses are more alike than unalike. They share a common universal goal and employ a systematic approach to building a repeatable and scalable business model.

This manifesto shows you how.

1. All Businesses Share a Common Universal Goal

All businesses, irrespective of business model type (b2b, b2c, digital, hardware, services, etc.), share a common universal goal:

To make happy customers.

2. Making Happy Customers vs. Making Customers Happy

Making happy customers is NOT the same thing as making customers happy.

Making customers happy is easy. Just give them lots of stuff for free. But that doesn’t lead to a working business model.

Making happy customers, on the other hand, is not just about making customers feel good. …

Time is our scarcest resource. Other resources like money and people can fluctuate up and down, but time only moves in one direction.

When I share this quote with others, they appear to get it — but then their actions prove otherwise. Most people still value money more than time and make decisions based on the present value of money vs. the future value of their money investment (ROI).

This is, not limited to, but quite prevalent with early-stage entrepreneurs who mistakenly equate bootstrapping to being cheap. And pride themselves in spending nothing, but sweat equity on everything. …

The traditional startup funnel is broken.

According to the 2019 Global Entrepreneur Monitor (GEM) report, more than 100 million startups are launched every year all over the world. That equates to about 3 startups per second.

These entrepreneurs come from all walks of life and transcend age, gender, and geography. The stereotype of the entrepreneur is no longer two guys in a garage in Silicon Valley.

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We are living through a global entrepreneurial renaissance and this represents an incredible opportunity.

To meet this surge in demand, there has been a corresponding explosion in the number of accelerators, incubators, and university programs that started in just the last ten years. Ten years ago, there were less than 50 startup accelerators. …

Time flies. We’re already at the 10 year anniversary of the Lean Startup. Yes, it was a little over 10 years ago that Eric Ries started sharing a series of blog posts and giving talks on a new way of building products — ideas that went on to spark the global Lean Startup movement.

By now, “almost everybody building products” has at least heard the term and has been exposed to the big ideas. Yet, when we look around we don’t find the corresponding adoption across teams. …

If you’re a long time reader of this blog, chances are high you’ve read my first book: Running Lean. But did you read my second book: Scaling Lean? My research says probably not. You’ve probably been waiting to pick up the second book for when you’re actually scaling your product.

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Being a deliberate reader myself, I’d probably have done the same. But what if I told you that, despite the title and book cover, Scaling Lean is actually sort of a prequel, not a sequel.

It’s not a book about dealing with the right side of the hockey-stick curve, but rather setting you up with a solid foundation, during the earliest stages of an idea, for systematically getting you to the right side of the hockey-stick curve. …

You’ve probably run into the jobs-to-be-done framework/theory. I did several years ago when I first stumbled into the Milkshake Study popularized by Clayton Christensen.

I was immediately intrigued and had more questions than answers.

I read up everything I could find and even worked alongside several JTBD thought leaders and practitioners including Bob Moesta, Chris Spiek, Tony Ulwick, Alan Klement, Des Traynor. A lot of their work influenced the development and still ongoing evolution of the Customer Forces Canvas and the Innovator’s Gift project.

But even after all this research, two things continue to bother me.

First, the commonly found definitions of a jtbd are circular, polymorphic, or purposely vague. Second, a lot of the case studies felt like neat magic tricks — obvious in hindsight, but hard to recreate with your own product. …

In a recent post, I shared a reference implementation of an innovation funnel built on the Continuous Innovation Framework and cautioned that while funnels are powerful visualization tools, they have their limitations.

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A reference innovation funnel built on the Continuous Innovation Framework

The biggest limitation is sub-funnel optimization which, in this case, is one of the leading causes for Innovation Theater.

The Problem With Funnels

Real and meaningful funnels typically have long lifecycles which take time to study. Innovation funnels, for instance, need at least 2–3 years to go from idea to product/market fit.

To speed things up,

  • we break these funnels into smaller sub-funnels,
  • define clear local KPIs (key performance indicators),
  • and assign different groups of people (departments or organizations) to optimize them. …

In order to achieve breakthrough innovation, you shouldn’t be limiting yourself to any one of these frameworks, but rather using all three…and possibly more.

The bigger context

You don’t get a gold star for following process, but achieving results — specifically, business model results.

What is a business model?

A business model describes 3 things: value creation, value delivery, and value capture. All three relate to customers. Therefore, customer-centricity also needs to be at the core of how you define, measure, and communicate progress.

Facets of a working business model

IDEO helped codify three facets for measuring a working business model:

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The intersection of these three circles (desirability, viability, and feasibility) defines the sweet spot of innovation. …

In my last post, I described how sketching an idea on a Lean Canvas is akin to stacking a chain of beliefs. Later links rely on earlier links, and cracks in your early links have a ripple effect. This is why it’s particularly important to confront your chain of belief and focus on your weakest links first — your riskiest assumptions.

The real challenge isn’t idea generation, but idea validation.

For an idea to be successful, it needs to constantly balance three types of risks: customer risk, market risk, and technical risk and I described the sweet spot of an idea being at the intersection of desirability, viability, and feasibility. …

A question I get a lot is: Why isn’t the Lean Canvas laid out more logically? Anyone that has attempted to fill one can relate. You have to jump around from box to box in a seemingly random order.

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Lean Canvas

The main reason for this particular layout was legacy. Lean Canvas was derived from the Business Model Canvas. And instead of changing the canvas layout, I chose to adopt a self-imposed design constraint: Every time I added a new box (like Problem), I’d remove an old box (like Key Partners).

To compensate for usability, I published a suggested fill order in my first book: Running Lean. …


Ash Maurya

Author of Running Lean, Scaling Lean, and Creator of Lean Canvas - Helping Entrepreneurs Find Their Business Model @LEANSTACK.

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