Thursday, September 18, 2014

Learn Online This Fall

Guest post by Lisa Regan, writer for The Lean Startup Conference.

Boost your entrepreneurship skills without getting out of the building this fall. With an online course from Stanford and a series of webcasts from the Lean Startup Conference team, you can learn a lot from your desk in the coming months.  

First up: We’re excited to announce that Bob Sutton is joining as a speaker at this year’s Lean Startup Conference. Perhaps best known for his book, The No Asshole Rule, Bob was a terrifically popular speaker at Office Optional, and he’s written a number of best-selling business books. His latest, Scaling Up Excellence, addresses a theme of this year’s conference: How do successful companies grow?

Bob and his co-author, Huggy Rao, are hosting a free online class this fall, Scaling Up Your Venture Without Screwing Up. The course lasts five weeks, and the first session was a few days ago—but it was designed for viewing any time, and you can register for the class through this week. In addition to featuring entrepreneurs like Clara Shih and Michael Dearing, the course also includes a session with Ben Horowitz, another speaker we’re pleased to host at this year’s Lean Startup Conference.

In this preview of their course, Huggy talks about the anatomy, psychology, and physiology of scaling your company without screwing it up. An excerpt:

The anatomy of a scaling organization: Achieve the right level of flatness.
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with hierarchies. On the one hand, they can stifle innovation and make people feel powerless. On the other hand, power and status differences within an organization enhance collective effectiveness in many ways. Consider a failed experiment by Google's Larry Page, who got rid of all the company's middle managers and then had to reinstate the old system after trouble erupted. One hundred frustrated engineers were reporting to one overwhelmed senior executive.

The challenge is to weave complexity into a system in a way that does as much good and as little harm as possible. You could take a lesson from an innovative system adopted by Salesforce that struck a balance between placing too much accountability on the shoulders of a few senior executives and spreading accountability too thinly and evenly, as if it were peanut butter. Each of Salesforce's software teams was expected to complete a new software demo every 30 days, but every engineer was free to move to a new team without getting permission, which encouraged leaders to treat people well.

Where else can you learn online this fall? A consistent bit of feedback you gave us last year was that you wanted more webcasts. Heard. We’re lining up a series for entrepreneurs this fall, going in-depth on Lean Startup methods and applications. The first three webcasts start rolling out next week, and we’re keeping our popular format, featuring a meaty conversation between experts, followed by substantial live Q&A with attendees.

The webcasts are free, and you can register for them individually. Here's the initial lineup: 

Next week’s webcast, Lean Startup 101, is a chance for people new to the ideas to get a leg up. Sarah and Janice will explain the terminology of Lean Startup (What’s an MVP? What’s customer development?) and how it translates into practices (Who should use innovation accounting? What’s the story with pivots?).

Sarah is Lean Startup Conference co-host and CEO of Lean Startup Productions. Janice is a leading expert in new product development with Lean Startup techniques. She’s advised hundreds of startups, including founders at companies like Task Rabbit and Lyft, and she’s trained members of the presidential administration in innovation practices. (At this year’s Lean Startup Conference, Janice will give a full-day workshop on Lean Startup 101, with hands-on exercises.)

As a preview of the webcast, here’s Janice giving a basic intro to Lean Startup, including an analogy between creating a startup and choosing a wedding cake:

We also invite you—or your coworkers who’ve wondered what all the fuss is about—to take a look at “Lean Startup 101: The Essential Ideas" an article by Sarah answering a few basic questions about Lean Startup. (As a reminder, we’ve talked before about how you can get buy-in from an organization to implement Lean Startup.)

To catch Janice and Bob in person, join us at The Lean Startup Conference, December 8 – 12 in San Francisco. Our fall sale for conference tickets is the last price break for this year, and it ends on October 31st. Now is a great time to buy, before you loose track and miss the sale price. Register today.