Success is not delivering a feature, success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.

Geschreven door Pieter De Moor op

Success is not delivering a feature, success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.

I finally read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It had been for a long time on my to do list. Right now I am really happy that I’ve read the book. When you read it yourself you might notice that it gives you a lot of inspiring insights. For me this worked. That’s why I want to share some key insights with you.

True startup productivity: 

Systematically figuring out the right things to build. In the lean startup, every product, every feature, every marketing campaign – everything a startup does – is understood to be an experiment designed to achieve validated learning.

Lean thinking:

Lean thinking defines value as providing benefit to the customer, anything else is waste. In a manufacturing business, customers don’t care how the product is assembled, only that it works correctly. But in a startup, who the customer is and what the customer might find valuable are unknown, part of the very uncertainty that is an essential part of the definition of a startup.

Chapter 4 of the book, ”Experiment”,  was one of the most interesting:    

One of the most important lessons of the scientific method – if you cannot fail, you cannot learn.
The experiment phase: it begins with a clear hypothesis that makes predictions about what is supposed to happen. Startup experimentation is guided by the startups vision. The goal of every startup experiment is to discover how to build a sustainable business around that vision. Even when experiments produce a negative result, those failures prove instructive and can influence strategy. In the lean startup model, an experiment is more than just a theoretical inquiry; it is also a first product.
The two most important assumptions entrepreneurs make are:

  1. The value hypothesis – test whether a product or service really delivers value to customers once using it.
  2. The growth hypothesis – test how new customers will discover a product or service. The product manager usually says “I want this”, and the engineer answers “I am going to build that”.

Instead answer 4 questions:

  1. Do consumers recognize that they have the problem you are trying to solve? 
  2. If there was a solution, would they buy it?
  3. Would they buy it from us?
  4. Can we build a solution for that problem?

Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.

The most important model of this book: The feedback loop

Ideas > build > product > measure > data > learn > ideas > and so on (circle)


Start with a minimum viable product & learn from it: 

MVP definition: A minimum Viable Product helps entrepreneurs start the process of learning as quickly as possible. It is not necessarily the smallest product imaginable, though; it is simply the fastest way to get through the build-measure-learn feedback loop with the minimum amount of effort. MVP is designed not just to answer product design or technical questions. Its goal is to test fundamental business hypotheses. The MVP is only the first step on a journey of learning. Down that road – after many iterations – you may learn that some element of your product or strategy is flawed and decide it is time to make a change (pivot) to a different method for achieving your vision. 

The importance of innovation accounting:

Only 5 % of entrepreneurship is the big idea, the business model, the whiteboard strategizing, and the splitting up of the spoils. The other 95 % is the gritty work that is measured by innovation accounting: product prioritizing decisions, deciding which customers to target or listen to, and having the courage to subject a grand vision to constant testing and feedback.

Tuning the engine: Once the baseline has been established, the startup can work toward the second learning milestone: tuning the engine. Every product development, marketing other initiative that a startup undertakes should be targeted at improving one of the drivers of it growth models.
Pivot or preserve: If we are not moving the drivers of our business model, we are not making progress. That becomes a sure sign that it is time to pivot. When a company pivots, it starts the process all over again, reestablishing a new baseline and then tuning the engine from there. The sign of a successful pivot is that these engine-tuning activities are more productive after the pivot than before.
The sign of a successful pivot: the new experiments you run are overall more productive than the experiments you were running before.
Pattern for making a pivot or preserve: poor quantitative results force us to declare failure and create the motivation, context, and space for more qualitative research. These investigations produce new ideas – new hypotheses – to be tested, leading to a possible pivot. Each pivot unlocks new opportunities for further experimentation, and the cycle repeats. Each time we repeat this simple rhythm: establish the baseline, tune the engine, and make a decision to pivot or preserve.

Types of pivots:

  1. Zoom-in pivot: What preciously was considered a single feature in a product becomes the whole product.     
  2. Zoom-out pivot: What was considered as the whole product becomes a single feature of a much larger product.
  3. Customer segment pivot: The product hypothesis is partially confirmed, solving the right problem, but for a different customer than originally anticipated.
  4. Customer need pivot: The product hypothesis is partially confirmed: the target customer has a problem worth solving, just not the one that was originally anticipated.
  5. Platform pivot: Refers to a change from an application to a platform or vice versa.
  6. Business architecture pivot: For example when a startup goes from high margin/low volume to mass market or vice versa.         
  7. Value capture pivot: how do companies capture value?
  8. Engine of growth pivot: A company changes its growth strategy to seek faster or more profitable growth.
  9. Channel pivot: Is the recognition that the same basic solution could be delivered through a different channel with greater effectiveness.
  10. Technology pivot: When discovering a technology to achieve the same solution by using a completely different technology.


The lean startup as framework:

Those who look to adopt lean startup as a defined set of steps or tactics will not succeed. In a startup situation, things constantly go wrong. Ultimately, the lean startups are a framework, not a blueprint of steps to follow. It is designed to be adapted to the conditions of each specific company. Rather than copy what others have done, techniques such as the five why ́s allow you to build something that is perfectly suited to your company.