Eric Reis – The Lean Startup. A comment.

Eric Reis‘s new book – The Lean Startup – is a distillation of his years of blog posts and presentations. If your familiar with the general concepts it can seem a little repetitive, if you aren’t then it’s excellent.

I do have one, very odd contention with the book: how seductive the concept of the Lean Startup is. The promise is this: your start up can be run on a low CapEx, and at near-zero risk. To do this you need to shorten iteration cycles, scientifically test all hypotheses and give freedom to workers to be entrepreneurs.

it has a utopic, pseudo-scientific quality – there is something very reassuring about somebody giving you very precise, scientific and actionable instructions – actually at the time it made me think of a first reading of Das Kapital. I have a vague sense of unease when the narrative is giving me one isolated example to back up a Lean principle – i wonder how may times it didn’t work, how difficult it was to put into practice and what suffered as a result.

Clearly the book is aimed at  consumer internet startups. The principles are clear and well explained, but a startup is such a unique experience that the most you can take away from The Lean Startup is a different way of looking at things. As long as you don’t take the book as an instruction manual its worth a good skim-read.

On the positive, there’s a fantastic little sentence at the end of the epilogue that made me stop and think –

“our capacity of production has completely overtaken our capacity of invention”

In other words, today we ask ourselves if we should make something, not if we can make it. That’s a huge shift. Time, man-hours and money are today more abundant resources than creative acumen. A lack of great ideas is the main friction point of progress. Crazy times indeed.

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