I’ve been watching some of the talks from the excellent Authors@Google series (where Google employees hear from authors on a wide variety of topics) and one that has really made me think is a talk by Eric Ries (@ericries) who is the author of the forthcoming book ‘The Lean Startup‘. I’ll review the book as soon as it is published, but there are some strong messages coming across loud and clear in the talk. The video is an hour long and well worth a watch. Although the book focuses on startups, there is much to be learned for many organisations.
If you can’t see the embedded video above, please click here to see it.
Ries defines a startup as ‘a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty’ and argues that it could generally be done a lot more effectively. As he unpacks this, it is clear that the thinking can be applied to organisations of all sizes as well as startups.
There is one aspect of The Lean Startup that I want to focus on in particular; the pivot. This is apparently old thinking in startup circles, but was new to me. The concept of the pivot arises from the fact that startups are harder than typical New Product Development as you don’t know exactly who the customer is, or what they want (just like The unclear path). So, as a startup develops, the pivot is a change of direction (firmly grounded in everything that has been learned) that moves you towards success.
Ries develops the following points:
- It can take a number of pivots before finding success.
- Reducing the time between pivots allows for more pivots and increases the odds of success before money runs out.
- Focusing on the learning required in order to pivot can drastically reduce the time between pivots (by developing the minimum viable product); each iteration is simply testing a hypothesis.
We know that lots of projects fail and I see a lot of change programmes and reorganisations that seem to be constant, without delivering the expected impact. Perhaps Lean Startup thinking is what we need in these situations; to run a series of really intense initiatives which will produce just enough learning to pivot and drive towards the successful outcome.
As soon as the book is available, I will definitely be reading it and posting a fuller review but (on the basis of the presentation) it looks great.
What is your experience of startups and pivoting?