Monday, September 17, 2012

Workshop: The Lean Entrepreneur with Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlaskovits

 This post was co-written by Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein, co-hosts of The Lean Startup Conference.

Ever since Eric announced Patrick and Brant's new book The Lean Entrepreneur (with illustrations by FAKEGRIMLOCK), we've been excited to be part of the book launch. Coming up in just a few short months, you'll have a chance to go in-depth with the authors and their book at an awesome workshop.

As we’ve mentioned here once or ten times before, this year, The Lean Startup Conference will include a second day, December 4, with in-demand workshops from established leaders in our community. Gold and Platinum Passes get you into the workshops, and we’ve conducted a series of short interviews with the workshop leaders to help you better understand how they think and what they’re offering.

If you follow Lean Startup experts, you’ve probably come across Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, co-authors of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development and The Lean Entrepreneur, and leaders of our workshop “The Lean Entrepreneur: Embrace the Unknown to Go Big.” Patrick recently answered a few questions for us.

What aspect of Lean Startup methods most inspires you?

Patrick: The most powerful Lean Startup concept may be the embracing of "I don't know." So instead of believing in what we call The Myth of the Visionary, wherein a successful entrepreneur is someone who has seen the future with a fully formed, crystallized product in his or her head and so then locks themselves in a garage until product launch, upon which they achieve overnight success, the Lean Startup teaches entrepreneurs to recognize what they don't actually know, and then how to learn what value they can create, for whom, and how to market, sell and deliver that value. This learning comes from interacting with customers, running experiments, and using data to help inform decisions. The Lean Startup methodology embraces the unknown, the uncertainty of the market, and teaches entrepreneurs to use small failures to achieve big successes.

What makes it hard for companies to implement this process?

Patrick: It depends on the stage of the business. Big businesses need a way to develop an internal ecosystem for rapid experimentation on truly innovative product ideas. But they get stuck when measuring new endeavors against existing, core-business metrics. Combining Horizon Planning with Lean Startup is a path out of this dilemma.

Startups with some amount of traction tend to think they're "done" with Lean Startup. But often they quickly find themselves on another plateau that threatens the business. Where are new customers going to come from? Are we building the right features and products? How do we scale? If properly understood and implemented, you're never done with Lean Startup. As aspects of your business model become known, you transition some activities to full-bore execution, but you must continue to perform learning and improvement activities to scale and win.

Early-stage startups are taught to believe in the vision. Vision is important, but just as important is understanding that the market is the final arbiter, and what is not known will be a greater part of the success or failure than what is known. So it's vitally important for entrepreneurs to have an iterative, experimenting, data-informed process for transforming the unknown to known, for discovering and validating the value being created.

What will people take away from your workshop?

Patrick: Market uncertainty can be described by an innovation spectrum stretching from lesser market uncertainty when undertaking sustaining innovation to greater market uncertainty when pursuing truly disruptive innovation. Whether you’re in a startup or in the enterprise, where you sit on the innovation spectrum determines how you will apply Lean Startup methods. In this session, people will learn to determine where they fit on the spectrum to help determine strategy and tactics for the future. They’ll also learn about the Value Stream and what waste looks like in a Lean Startup; the Anti-Segment (those people you don’t want to listen to) and how to segment your market so you’re not trying to be all things to all people. Attendees will leave knowing the value they’re creating, for whom, and how to deliver that value.

This video features Cooper and Vlaskovits speaking at UC Irvine about Lean Startup.

If you’re thinking about registering for The Lean Startup Conference, bear in mind that space for the workshops is limited, and that we have a block of early-bird tickets on sale right now. When this block sells out, the price goes up. Register now for a Gold or Platinum Pass to attend the workshops!

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