Lean startup methodologies have delivered huge wins for early stage companies, and the enterprise has begun to notice. The ability to rapidly validate new product ideas, gather actionable user feedback and pivot or kill an idea inherently supports innovation. Yet, while startups typically are nimble enough to take advantage of lean startup principles, corporate innovators often struggle to get the buy-in they need to act with the agility of a startup – the agility that successful innovation often requires.
Despite recognizing the importance of innovation and the benefits of lean startup, most corporations simply aren’t built to allow the sort of messy, rapid work required by a lean startup mentality. Recently, the Harvard Business Review asked innovators and executives the opportunities and challenges to implementing agile and lean startup methods within the enterprise. The results clearly showed a few things.
First, the benefits: we all know the critical value of data and actionable insights. Lean startup puts a premium on that data, allowing companies to tailor products directly to user needs and iterate their service offerings accordingly. Gathering that data requires speed, flexibility and a willingness to get creative (or messy) during the development process – which brings us to the challenges.
By far, the chief roadblocks to lean startup lie in the discomfort caused by building and launching a minimum viable product (MVP), the cornerstone of a lean or agile development approach to new products. This discomfort often lies in a fundamental misunderstanding of lean startup, which affects innovators of all kinds. Despite the common perception, building an MVP does not mean launching a flawed or unpolished product; rather, innovators should focus on a beautifully designed and branded product, fully functional with lightweight features. Geoff Wilson, founder of digital product agency 352 Inc., suggests a refresh of the lean startup mentality which allows easier adoption within the enterprise.
Building MVP does not and should not mean compromising on IT requirements or brand guidelines, but it does require the commitment and freedom to get messy. Sometimes, it can be easier for corporations to pursue this kind of innovation separate from the core brand. When Cox Automotive was developing Make My Deal, an online negotiating platform, it allowed Mike Burgiss to build a new brand and build the product externally. This gap between the parent brand and the innovation department allowed Mike to validate, test and iterate quickly until he found product/market fit.
As an innovator, it’s your job to remind executives that building MVP and working lean can be done within the enterprise. An MVP, after all, is simply the most lightweight tool to learn something about the viability of your product or a new feature offering. That tool can take many forms, even as simple as an email survey to current users or a focus group to identify the problem you’re trying to solve – even without building a platform, you can learn if it’s an idea worth pursuing.
While there may be challenges to implementing lean startup within large organizations, successful innovation requires adopting a mindset tolerant of rapid failure (and learning) and easy response to change.