I like the Lean Startup (LS) methodology – don’t get me wrong – I think it increases efficiency in creating businesses. But there has always been something about the process that has bugged me and now I’ve finally managed to pin it down:
The problem is right in the beginning: how do you choose which idea to work on? How do you start?
If you read most books or listen to the talks about Lean Startup you won’t really find mention on how to come up with your initial idea. Instead, the Lean Startup process is generally described as something like this:
- Identify your target audience
- Understand the target’s problems and needs
- Think up an offering that addresses those needs
- Create an MVP and try and get the solution in the hands of your targets
- Iterate until you get to something that could scale into a proper business….
- Scale / Growth phase
But before you can identify your target audience, you need to know what the hell you will be working on.
Otherwise, if you just follow the steps outlined above, any audience will fit – and then you could end up working on something you don’t care about or is completely out of your area of expertise. Very hit and miss.
I don’t think many people will claim to have started a business from a target audience, instead, most of us start with an idea. And this idea is generated from connecting dots in our heads or through experience within a sector or industry. I think this is where Lean Startup does not really help. I believe, in reality, most people start with the idea and not the audience. I mean it makes no sense to start with the audience – try it!
When people create a business and use Lean Startup, I think the process goes something more like this:
- You have an eureka moment, the lightbulb in your head lights up – this business idea is so great it needs to be made!
- You then remember that Lean Startup thing and go out to try and find a target audience that you guess could be using your wonderful idea (inverting the correct order according to Lean Startup).
- You then watch your target audience react completely different than what you imagined
- Oh well… time to iterate the idea and tweak it, maybe even look for a different audience?
- Dabble in this back and forth for an infinite period of time and eventually take the jump and go with one of the combination of idea-target audiences.
- Finally start Lean Startup properly!
- Do the whole process as described in Lean Startup from the MVP->Test->Learn->MVP->etc
- See steps from the first list…
Why is this a problem? It is a problem because LS is supposed to give you efficiency but it fails to address that you will stumble into the process instead of following a clean methodology.
It also begs the question – are there good frameworks for streamlining coming up with the initial idea?
Or should initial ideas come organically?
Time to dig deeper…