From the idea to the successful product

With the Lean Startup method you will achieve customer-centric and innovative products and business models. We show you the four important mantras.

Author: Amancio Bouza

New product ideas often arise with the conviction of companies that their customers need and want it. It takes months, sometimes years to define, implement and perfect this product. The idea has never been validated with customers or the product tested on the market early on. That is why companies often fail with new products - and do so slowly and expensively. Both are undesirable and in combination often fatal.

The Lean Startup method offers a scientific and in Silicon Valley established approach to develop and manage an innovative product and business model in a customer-centered way and to bring a product faster into the hands of their customers by means of agile methods. Lean Startup helps with strategy, definition of measures and implementation to maximize traction through fast learning cycles. This ranges from pivoting the product, identifying and minimizing risks and uncertainties, to early delivery and testing of the product.

In the following we show the four main mantras of Lean Startup.

Mantra 1: Eliminate uncertainties

There are many uncertainties and risks in the development of a new product. Often a "Just Do It" approach is followed in companies: Requirements are collected, budgets are applied for, used up and written off again. After all, innovation means that one must and may often fail, right? But this is not the only option.

With the Lean Startup methodology, companies can create order by providing tools that allow a vision to be continuously tested. This minimizes risks and allows the product to be optimized accordingly.

Lean does not simply mean spending less money or fail-fast & fail-cheap. It is about using a product development process or methodology to effectively develop a product. This means developing a product that is desired and purchased by the customer.

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Fig.1: With the Lean Canvas you describe the product, identify the biggest risks and uncertainties and mitigate them.

Mantra 2: Work smarter, not harder

The Lean Startup method assumes that every new product development is a big experiment that answers a question. The question is not «Can this product be built?» Instead, the question is «Should this product be built, i.e. does a customer need exist?» and «Can we build a sustainable business with these products and services?» Such an experiment is more than just an academic exercise; it is a first product. If it is successful, a manager can start with the product campaign: recruit early adopters, continuously expand the product team and develop the product. By the time the project is ready for the market, it will already have an established customer base and the vendor can be confident that the product will solve a customer problem and that there is demand for it.

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Fig. 2: The intersection of feasibility, demand and profitability forms the sweet spot for a successful product.

Mantra 3: Develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

A core component of the Lean Startup method is the Build-Measure-Learn loop. The first step is to discover the problem to be solved. Then the mentioned loop starts. First, an (MVP) is developed which solves this problem in order to start the learning process as soon as possible. Then, using appropriate metrics to answer cause-and-effect questions, it is necessary to measure and learn from the results.

Often an investigative method called «Five Whys» is also used to understand problems that arise. If this measurement and learning process is done correctly, it is clear whether or not a company is moving the driving forces of its business model. If not, it is time to perform a structural course correction, or pivot, to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy and growth driver.

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Fig. 3: With a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) you can validate demand and value to the customer early on. Use an MVP to learn quickly from the customer.

Mantra 4: Validated learning

In industrial manufacturing, progress is measured by the production of high quality goods. But how do you measure progress in the development of an innovative product? The unit is called: validated learning - a rigorous method of demonstrating progress under extreme uncertainty.

As soon as entrepreneurs opt for validated learning, the development process can shrink considerably. Because when companies focus on developing the right thing - what customers want and will buy - you don't have to spend months waiting for a product beta launch to change the direction of product development. Instead, entrepreneurs can adjust their plans incrementally.

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Figure 4: Internalize the Build-Measure-Learn loop and celebrate each iteration

Your business benefits through Lean Startup

Nobody wants to fail 9 out of 10 times if there is a better way. With Lean Startup you increase the chance of developing an innovative idea into a successful product and bringing it to market. In this method, failure means learning, because every failure brings us closer to the goal of developing an idea into a successful product.

With the help of the Lean Canvas we can explicitly describe a product, identify and minimize risks. The development of an MVP is central to testing the product on the market at an early stage and with little effort, and to building up an initial user base (early adopters).