By Michael Woloszynowicz

By Michael Woloszynowicz

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Lean Startup Book - Reviewed

Having been a fan and advocate of the Lean Startup movement for some time now, I've been anxiously awaiting the release of Eric Ries' book ever since its announcement. Given the high quality of Eric's blog posts, it's needless to say that my expectations for the book were quite lofty. I'm happy to state that it delivers on those expectations and brings a fresh perspective to the subject, even for long-time Lean Startup practitioners. In fact, it's not a stretch to say that the Lean Startup book will join the ranks of tech circle bibles like The Innovator's Dilemma, Crossing the Chasm, and Inside the Tornado.

For those expecting a detailed step-by-step roadmap of the Lean Startup, you're likely to be disappointed. The subject is simply too large to be covered in one book, and many of the individual concepts have already been covered in other sources (Eric does a great job of suggesting further reading). More importantly, the Lean Startup is not a laundry list of steps on the path to success, and the book never presents it as such. What it does is lay out a framework with which you should approach your startup, and some specific considerations that need to be made throughout its evolution. It succinctly ties together many of the concepts presented throughout Eric's blog, but does so in a manner that doesn't feel repetitive. Having read his blog in its entirety, I rarely found myself reading material that I'd heard before, and was often presented with ideas for the first time. Furthermore, Eric does a good job of reframing some of the more familiar material and making it clearer through context.

The most interesting idea in the book - and it's one that somehow eluded me until this day - is that of the growth hypothesis. Loyalists of the Lean Startup are no doubt familiar with the idea of the value hypothesis, which serves as the foundation for the minimum viable product, but until now, little has been written about what Eric calls "the engines of growth". Although several articles have been published about retention metrics, net promoter scores, etc, I've never seen it framed in such a clear manner. The growth hypothesis serves as a complement to the value hypothesis and aims to discover the best way to reach and grow your customer base, and to rigorously test this alongside your value proposition. These two concepts occupy a good chunk of the book and are described in detail, alongside many real-world examples which crystallize their meaning. The concept is then solidified with one of Eric's most profound and enlightening statements: "Sustainable growth is characterized by one simple rule: New customers come from the actions of past customers", the explanation of which I'll leave as a lightbulb moment to prospective readers. This is just one one of many statements that will leave you pausing and reflecting on your own situation or past decisions and seeing them in a new light.

I'll end this review by highlighting one point that is laid out in the book from the outset. An entrepreneur is not someone who is starting their own business. It's anyone that is creating a product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty. The reason I emphasize this is that many of you may feel that "I work in a big company, these concepts don't apply to me", and skip the book entirely. If you operate under such conditions, in any company, big or small, I strongly urge you to read the book and spend time reflecting on its ideas. In fact, Eric has done a great job of providing examples of the Lean Startup in the context of large organizations such as Intuit and IGN, and devotes the last few chapters of the book to this very topic (this serves as a good complement to the Innovator's Dilemma). The book is well written, engaging, thought provoking and enjoyable, and most importantly it sheds some new light on the revolutionary concept that is the Lean Startup.

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The book can be purchased on Amazon here.

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