Consider The Lean Startup–appealing for the name alone. Fat, unwieldy, and thick are some of lean’s antonyms–and who wants that? Especially when today’s hyper-competitive business environment demands a company be nimble and quick, like Jack. (There’s a lot of fire to jump over out there.) The entrepreneur Eric Ries invented the term and the methodology it describes, and his powerful book on the subject reads like a siren song to would-be entrepreneurs. Ries’s book–while dispensing loads of valuable information about how to wring advantage from failure–has at its core the idea of an MVP. That’s not to say he recommends you go out and hire Peyton Manning. Ries’s acronym stands for Minimum Viable Product, an idea so attractive that the other, plentiful stratagems he offers fall away in its awesome presence.
What is the MVP? Think of the movie Groundhog Day and you’re almost there. In the film Bill Murray’s character, forced to live the same day over and over, constantly recalibrates his efforts to seduce a colleague. Similarly Ries recommends simply trying things out, and fixing them when they don’t work. Then piling on in the successful areas. He tells the mesmerizing story of having to completely rethink (and then successfully pivot) an instant messaging company (IMVU) he co-founded in 2004. Testing, testing, testing is the technologist’s version of real estate’s location, location, location. Ries sometimes changed the code of IMVU, depending on user feedback, 50 times a day! The idea has taken hold in Silicon Valley, where fresh development strategies are always in vogue. Ries takes his testing even further–recommending you advertise a product before you have it, gauge the public interest. Why build something–unless you’re Kevin Costner–if you don’t know people will come. Ries favors Murray’s ideas over Costner’s. He recommends you keep trying till you get it right. He must have followed his own advice when it came to writing his book, too: Ries has as lucid a prose style as any Chief Technical Officer has a right to.
note: an offshoot from Ries’s ideas called Lean Startup Machine, recently announced a partnership with Microsoft, which was last lean in the 1980s.