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Written by The Mezzanine Group
on June 20, 2012

If you're involved in startups, you probably already know about Eric Ries’ Lean Startup Methodology. One of the basic principles is to, as he puts it, “get out of the building.” Instead of spending money to take days, weeks, or months to create and launch a product that nobody wants, go out and ask people. Find out if they'd be willing to pay you for the product you want to create. Get some kind of commitment – an email address, a cheque, a contract, an MOU.

Even if you're in an established business, there are some lessons to take from this approach:

  • Don’t go too far down the road of product design before engaging with your potential clients or users – they should be involved early and often.
  • If you’re doing customer research, don't just probe for what people want, but what they would be willing to pay for.
  • When you’re setting up internal processes, get things up and running before you try to perfect them. Many things don’t need scalability to work – they just need the bare bones and something to start with.

I’m certainly finding that it’s an ongoing discipline, a muscle we have to remember to flex, to ask “What’s the fastest, most efficient way we can get this change to take root?” rather than “What does the perfect end state look like?” Without actual adoption and use, you don’t know what you're designing for, so why design something massive and potentially unwieldy (or unprofitable)?

It’s great to be in a small company, because it forces me to innovate on a smaller scale, to implement without large systems, and to have some processes boil down to “ask Meredith”. We systematize what makes sense, but we do our best not to over engineer, because just throwing things out and seeing how they take shape can be shockingly effective.

What can you learn from the lean model in your organization? When’s the last time you hired someone with startup experience, even if you’re a large firm?

If you're interested in finding out what your clients or potential clients might think of your product or service innovation ideas, we can help.

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