Lean is a movement according to Eric Ries, which explains how its principles can be applied across many different industries and in companies from GE to one-person startups that are not much more than an early idea. As the thoughts and practices mature around lean, there are different approaches depending on what stage and size your company is at. We’ve gone though and curated the top three talks for various stages of a company from The Lean Startup Conference held late last year. So to kick off a new year, here’s our cheat sheet to must-see conference talks, depending on what your interest in lean is. But first some of the overall observations:
- Lean is a validated approach for corporate enterprises and not just a “startup” methodology.
- In large corporations that implement lean, the fundamental key to success is to speed up the “path to yes”. That is, it’s the company leaders’ jobs to get out of the way and allow things to happen.
- The methods for testing early stage ideas now go far beyond test landing pages, which as Laura Klein pointed out do nothing more than show you can collect email addresses.
- Proof is in the payment.
- Product thinking should involve “growth hacking” (marketing in old speak) from day one. It’s part of your product not an afterthought.
- Creating an environment where change can happen fast is fundamental to lean practices.
The top three talks for lean in corporates
1. Lean Leadership Lessons – Brad Smith, Hugh Molotsi and Laura Fennell from INTUIT, INC
Key points: Our continual goal is to see how can we help our employees “get to yes” as quickly as possible. The bottleneck is always at the top of the bottle. The mindset in need of changing, is often your own. Key element to innovation culture is “unstructured time”.
2. Lean Startup–From Toyota City to Fremont to You – John Shook from LEAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE
Key points: Hiding problems is the most anti-lean thing you can do. Toyota gave everyone the ability to stop the entire manufacturing process if they notice problems. Lean Startup is a management system with a social side and a technical side in equal measure, both need attention.
3. The Biggest Implementation of Lean Startup on Earth – GE management team
Key points: Why would a #leanstartup entrepreneur work at a large company like GE? Access, scale, work tethered by real needs. Even companies like GE are using lean startup principles and doing them across the organisation. This is thinking not restricted to just entrepreneurs.
The top three talks for early early (just an idea) stage startups
1. Beyond Landing Pages: Five Ways to Find Out if Your Idea Is Stupid – Laura Klein author of Lean UX for startups.
Key points: Landing pages aren’t really good for much more than getting email addresses. You need to think beyond landing pages.
- Audience building (through content) eg 37 signals, groupon, mint, seomoz
- Concierge eg Airbnb
- Wizard of oz eg Stripe, cark, polyvore
- Fake door eg IMVU, polyvore. Industrial logic
- Crowdfunding eg OUYA, pebble
2. Work With Customers Before You Write Any Code – Daina Burnes Linton @dainalinton FASHION METRIC
Key points: If you truly identify a problem and you have a solution then customers will go through an inconvenient solution to solve it. Study customer behaviour to guide your development. Create opportunities to learn from your customers from Day One.
3. Acquiring Your First Users Out of Thin Air – Kathryn Minshew @KMin from THE MUSE.
Key points: Acquiring your first customers out of thin air:
- Design the first user experience
- Seek out like-minded groups
- Ask for word of mouth (but make it easy)
- Know how to approach bloggers and reporters
- Becoming your own PR machine
The top three talks for early stage startups
1. The Medium Is the Message – Patrick Vlaskovits @Pv from SUPERPOWERED
Key points: How your people learn about your product is part of your product. Context matters. It’s not enough to have an innovative product (in fact the more innovative the product, the more innovative the message has to be.)
2. Learning to Be an Organization that Pivots – Keya Dannenbaum @keyajay from ELECTNEXT
Key points: Myth of passion is that passion will follow you to success. Passionate love is like a drug (and you have a comedown). In love and startups we romanticize the addiction, but it has to end. The good news is there success, so we can get there. Dedicated practice is the slowly deeply rooted vine that hold the house together, long after the romance had died.
3. Evidence-based Entrepreneurship – Steve Blank @sgblank from STANFORD/BERKELEY/COLUMBIA
Key points: We are now capable of coming up with a readiness level (a common language) with all the data from Launchpad central. It’s a formal way to evaluate risk. Startups are temporary organisations designed to search for a proven and sustainable business model. Business canvas model + customer dev + agile engineering = lean startup.
The top three talks for startups at the growth phase
1. Risk, Information, Time and Money (in 20 Minutes) – Dan Milstein
Key points: If the biggest risk is change, therefore the thing that is going to get you the most information and therefore MONEY, is change. How fast people can respond to the changing nature of risks is how well you can make money. This is the competitive advantage.
2. Continuous Change at Scale – John Goulah @johngoulah from ETSY
Key points: For continuous change at scale you need continuous integration environment, a stable trunk, a “try” server, instrumentation (you need to see where problems are), feature flags (a piece of code able to turn a feature on and off), ramp-ups (release code to some of your users and ramp it up eg on github). People need autonomy (they act as their own release manager and “own” their code).
3. Preparing for Catastrophic Success – Ari Gesher @alephbass PALANTIR TECHNOLOGIES
Key points: Hyper growth is painful BUT you can make it suck more. It is a good problem to have. When you talk about startups we know it’s all about the team. The real key to getting to hypergrowth is hiring, hiring and hiring (our hiring manager has to use 50% of their time hiring). Across the organisation is a hiring machine (it’s understood to be everyone’s job no 2).
You can visit the full list of videos from The Lean Startup Conference here.