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The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets Hardcover – February 26, 2013
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"A sprawling overview of some of the biggest ideas in the start-up world."
--SETH GODIN, Author The Icarus Deception
From the Inside Flap
You are not a Visionary . . . yet. The Lean Entrepreneur shows you how to become one.
Most of us believe entrepreneurial visionaries are born, not made. Our media glorify business outliers like Bezos, Branson, Gates, and Jobs as heroes with X-ray vision who can look to the future, see clearly what will be, imagine a fully formed product or experience, and then simply make the vision real.
Many in our entrepreneur community still believe that to be visionary, we must merely execute on a seemingly good idea and ignore all doubt. With this mindset, companies build doomed products in a vacuum; enterprises make ill-fated innovation investment decisions; and employees and shareholders come along for an uncomfortable ride.
Falling prey to the Myth of the Visionary confuses talented entrepreneurs, product managers, innovators, and investors. It leads us to heartbreaking, costly, and preventable failures in new product and venture development.
The Lean Entrepreneur moves us beyond this myth. It combines powerful customer insight, rapid experimentation, and easily actionable data from the Lean Startup methodology to empower individuals, companies, and entire teams to evolve their vision, solve problems, and create value at the speed of the Internet.
Anyone can be visionary. The Lean Entrepreneur shows you how to:
- Apply actionable tips, tricks, and hacks from successful lean entrepreneurs
- Leverage the Innovation Spectrum to disrupt existing markets and create new ones
- Drive strategies for efficient market testing with Minimal Viable Products
- Engage customers with Viability Testing and radically reduce the time and budget for product development
- Rapidly create cross-functional innovation teams that devour roadblocks and set new benchmarks
- Bring your organization critical focus on the power of loyal customers and valuable products you can build to serve them
- Leverage instructive tools, skill-building exercises, and worksheets along with bonus online videos
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Also I particularly liked chapter 3 "All the Fish in the Sea". The extended fishing metaphor was one of the highlights of the book, particularly the part about accidentally hooking a leopard shark as an example of the damage "landing" a client you're not prepared for can do to your business.
Finally, there were the case studies. I love case studies, I love getting a deep look into what other companies our doing. My absolute favorite part of The Lean Startup was when Ries talks about his experiences with IMVU. Most of the case studies in the book were great, though a few, particularly the ones which were in the format of an interview could have used some editing down (particularly the Sharethrough study pgs. 215-221)
Okay, so on the negative side. There has only been one book, ever, that I consciously put down and decided I'm not going to read another word, and that was fifteen years ago. I came really close with this book. It could just be me, but the writing seemed very jumbled and stream-of-consciousness, as an example from Page 39, in the chapter "Vision, Values and Culture" in the section titled "Lean into It: The Lean Startup Culture":
"Use data to resolve conflicts, measure projects, and inform decisions. An organization drowning in data is little better than one without data. Those who fear the overhead of implementing data systems are missing the point. On the other hand, decisions by data only risk missing the big decisions by automating the small ones."
It took me several passes to understand the last sentence, and I'm still not 100% sure I know what they're saying. Also, they have a chapter on data, but as I mentioned this isn't where this is from. It feels like here, kind of in the middle of another thought, the authors suddenly decided okay let's cover everything we can think of about data, from data systems to where to use data, to having too much data, etc. Each sentence is a completely new, and large topic. The whole thing sounds more like the summary of a chapter than one paragraph.
Additionally, you'll have sections where they have detailed lists of 24 specific things to do for customer development (pages 113-114), but a few pages before (pg. 111) they tried to cover the entirety of the book "The Black Swan" in a few paragraphs. In other words they spend too much time on some things and far too little on others.
The central problem I had with their writing finally coalesced for me near the end of the book. The authors were incredibly poor about letting me know where they were going. As a final example, chapter 9 is titled "Real Visionaries Have Funnel Vision". Based on that title you might expect that the chapter would explain what a real visionary is, or what the term funnel vision means, and how the two go together. It does spend a lot of time talking about funnels, but within the chapter the term "funnel vision" is used just once. And the term visionary (or visionaries) is never mentioned even once outside of the chapter title (the word vision is mentioned on other time, outside "funnel vision"). This may seem nit-picky, but I think it's a concrete way of illustrating an objection that might otherwise be hard to quantify.
I'm sure Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits are killer consultants. They're brimming with experience and ideas, and great, real world, actionable advice. All of this, I can't help but feel, would blow your socks off in a dynamic consultative environment. But as a book, it needed some serious organization help and a lot of editing.
So would I buy it? If you can't afford to just hire Cooper and Vlaskovits and you are totally committed to a lean methodology, and you're in the middle of it and want some practical exercises to help focus your thinking? Then yes. Otherwise, unless you've already read everything else, I would pass.
The paradox of the lean startup movement is that it's customer-driven in its ideology, but tech-driven in practice. In fact, the "customer discovery" ideology is a geek antidote (developed by geeks for geeks). In their discussion of entrepreneurial vision, Cooper and Vlaskovits provide a broader perspective through a sort of taxonomy of visions which shows,in my opinion--I'm about to commit the ultimate heresy--that the importance of the customer varies depending on the nature of the entrepreneur's vision. Gasp!
The rest of the book is all about the customer which is certainly what I need to hear.
The chapter on customer segmentation is thought-provoking and their plain manner of speaking on the subject is effective. Highlights here are abuse of demographics, effectiveness of personas, and the concept of anti-segments--people who are like your customer, but aren't! What a useful thought!
The chapter on experimentation is solid. Good coverage of experiment types and interesting points. For example, they present a case study where a landing page with an excruciatingly long survey effectively weeds out non-customers.
Great illustrations by Fake Grimlock.
My only criticism: the first chapter on the startup revolution is too buzzword-compliant and hyperbolic. I've heard it all before. And I don't like these rectangular book layouts that require you to reserve two passenger seats on a plane so you can open the book up without knocking the passenger into the aisle.
If you read Eric's book and your head is spinning a bit because you may not be a Silicon Valley person, Brant's book will make the concepts much easier to understand.
Most recent customer reviews
Nine because nothing's perfect, but...Wow!
This book is fantastic!Read more
Great read from an amazing guy!