Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reading :: Running Lean

Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works
By Ash Maurya

At the end of this book, Maurya tells us: "A book, like large software, is never finished—only released." And that's the approach he took: as he describes the process in Running Lean, he floated the idea of writing a book on his blog, iterated the concept and ideas with his community, released the book, and now invites us to enter the conversation via his blog, workshops, and newsletter.

Running Lean describes the lean startup approach well, and it's easy to read and follow. The subtitle emphasizes the key lesson, which is to iterate. And iteration spreads across the entire startup, including the product but also the business model, marketing, value proposition, and the other parts that make up a successful startup.

Beyond iteration, Maurya provides plenty of other advice that may be surprising to new startups:

  • "Your product is NOT 'the product'": The solution you offer is only part of the overall product you produce; your overall product is actually the business model within which the product makes sense.
  • Your key question is: "Do I have a problem worth solving?" A problem worth solving must be a must-have (something the customers want); viable (either the customers or someone else must be willing to pay for it); and feasible (something you can actually solve).
  • "How do I accelerate growth?" Maurya offers this simple principle: "pivots are about finding a plan that works, while optimizations are about accelerating that plan."
But the book isn't just principles, Maurya offers several pieces of advice for setting up feedback loops and iterating, including running experiments, performing customer interviews, and engaging in rapid contextual design. 

The result is readable, easy to follow, and interesting. If you're interested in the Lean approach, but Steve Blank's books were too thick and Eric Ries' book seemed too repetitive, this might be the book for you. I just wish I had read it earlier—I might have used it for my course on Writing for Entrepreneurs. Maybe next time!

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