This [lean startup approach] is the scientific way of building startups. It requires a commitment to learning and thoughtfulness. It is being documented in books like Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany and blogs like Eric Ries’ Startup Lessons Learned. It represents the triumph of learning, over the naive startup creation myths we read about in the media.
The critical question isn’t ‘What do your customers want?’ It is ‘How do you KNOW what your customers want?’
A lean startup approach is a commitment to entrepreneurial mindset, a recognition that the worst enemy of startups is the illusion of knowledge about what a market wants. In other words, a lean startup entrepreneur needs to accept and try to overcome the limitations of her mind.
In Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking, Thomas Kida has written a great introductory primer on the basic errors we make in thinking. While most literature on this subject uses very technical and theoretical language such as confirmation bias, Kida presents some basic, useful concepts along with examples from our every day lives.
He calls them a “Six Pack of Problems”:
Kida presents strategies for improving our critical thinking – strategies a lean startup entrepreneur can use in vetting markets.
For instance, I am prone to making the classic entrepreneurial mistake of asking prospective customers questions that serve to confirm what I already want to believe. I need strategies for getting to the truth and saving myself the pain of self delusion.
Consider for a moment, the following answers to How do you KNOW what your customers want?
- The X market has a problem with Y, and the technology we’ve been building in our lab will allow them to do Z by…
- I have interviewed 10 industry executives about the problem, showed them screenshots of my proposed solution, and confirmed that they are very interested.
- 5 prospective customers have signed an LOI to test and buy at $X
The first answer is a story – not evidence. The second answer begs for skepticism about how the interviews are conducted. The final answer is a fact.
Which do you find most convincing?