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The Lean Startup: Getting out of the building

When speaking with a colleague this week, he remarked “everyone seems to own a startup”. Ok, so when you work in an office full of new companies then yes everyone does seem to own a startup, but it’s also true that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well at a time when economic challenges are against us. One of the biggest realisations I’ve had as the owner of a startup is how important it is to adapt and be flexible to change. In the 18 months Digital Polish has been up and running the market has already changed a lot and as an entrepreneur I need to think of ways to adjust to these changes. It is this need to adjust that brought me to the Lean Startup Machine weekend in London.

For those uninitiated into the world of the Lean Startup (until very recently I was one of them), Lean is a methodology, a scientific approach to developing a startup. In the words of Eric Ries – the father of the Lean Startup – it is 

“a new approach to business that’s being adopted around the world. It is changing the way companies are built and new products are launched. 

The Lean Startup is about learning what your customers really want. It’s about testing your vision continuously, adapting and adjusting before it’s too late.”

The Lean Startup approach is not for the faint hearted, and neither is the LSM weekend. The workshop began on Friday evening at 6pm (or even earlier at 9.30am for those of us who attended the General Assembly LSM Breakfast) and finished on Sunday evening around 6pm. In that time we played rock, paper, scissors with a room full of strangers, pitched our business ideas to those strangers, and then went about applying the Lean methodology with the same strangers who had now become our team mates. 

What makes LSM different from the many hackathons out there is that, really, no one cares about the end product. It’s all about the learning. We’re told to ‘get out of the building’, speak to our potential customers, challenge our own assumptions. This is the baptism of fire many LSM alumni speak of. Before you’ve even finished with the pleasantries of introducing yourself to your team mates you’re being thrust out onto the street – or in my team’s case onto Skype (we won the LSM London ‘Staying in the Building’ award. Quite the achievement).

In business it’s very easy to get ahead of yourself, think you know what your customers want, and spend a lot of time and effort building it to find out that, actually, they didn’t want it at all. This is why, from now on, I’ll be applying the Lean methodology whenever and wherever possible, challenging assumptions and not accepting the expected.
Photo credit: dierken via photopin cc

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Deborah Mackay

Director and Founder at Digital Polish Ltd
Deborah has been producing articles for online and offline publications since 2004. Her specialist interests include technology, entrepreneurialism and life hacking. She holds a PGDip in broadcast journalism from UCLAN.

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