Eric Ries on the key to success

“ The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.”

Eric Ries is the author of the popular book The Lean Startup, and I just found out he has a new book coming out in the fall called The Startup Way.

Eric is responsible for, and came to notoriety from, popularizing the lean startup method. He’s the one to thank for the widespread use of words like “pivot” and “lean” in a business context, which have become overused to the point of them becoming a meme of startup culture.

A pivot is simply a change in strategy without a change in vision, and being lean is in reference to speed not cost. Eric says things like “if you cannot fail, you cannot learn” and asks questions like “should we build it” instead of “can we build it”.

A core concept of the lean approach is the MVP, minimum viable product. This is the smallest, simplest version of your product — one you would absolutely be embarrassed of — that is just big enough to be able to put into the hands of users and start learning. The difference between an MVP and traditional market research is that it is focused on real customer behavior instead of assumptions and opinions. It is deliberate experimentation.

This method, lean, isn’t only good for software product companies. You can apply the principles to literally anything, and you should. The last thing anyone wants is to build something no one wants. If you’re familiar with the site Product Hunt, you know that it is a community website focused on sharing and discovering new products, complete with chat threads and all kinds of features. But it didn’t start this way. The MVP took all of 20 minutes to put together and was simply meant to answer a single question: “do people want to share product discoveries”. Ryan Hoover used a tool called Linky Dink to create a group of people where anyone can submit a link to a cool product they found during the day and at the end of the day, everyone gets emailed the entire list. That’s it It’s meant to be simple.

I think creativity is the new currency. It’s not about whether something can be done anymore but whether it should and those who will win are those who come up with better questions and creative way to learn faster.

Image credit: SeriesF.

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