Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lean Startup & Holacracy: How Do They Fit Together?

I just finished a book: The Lean Startup. It's a model for building successful new products/startups extremely efficiently, developed by startup entrepreneur Eric Reis. No genius needed, just a method. I have to say I'm impressed: the theory and the case studies are very convincing.

Fairly quickly into the book, I started to draw mental connections with another lean model: Holacracy. No surprise here, both share a similar Agile inspiration. They both emphasize a "dynamic steering" management style based on direct feedback from reality, as opposed to grand strategies based on assumptions. 

How about putting Lean Startup and Holacracy side by side to see how they compare? That's the fun exercise this post is about.
  1. Let's start with a quick and dirty overview of each model, 
  2. Then I'll suggest a way Holacracy and Lean Startup fit together
  3. Then I'll give a table comparing characteristics of each model

Lean Startup: Learn What the Market Want

Fig 1. The Lean Startup "Build-Measure-Learn" Feedback Loop

The starting assumption of the Lean Startup is that nowadays, with products being more and more informational and immaterial, the key question is not "Can we make it?" but "Will people buy it?" For Reis, most startups fail because they build something that nobody wants.

So the goal of the Lean Startup is to learn as fast as possible, with the least resources possible, what product we need to build to sustain a thriving business. How to do that? By carefully testing our assumptions, as shows the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop depicted above (Fig. 1).

The process goes as follow:
  1. You get ideas for a new product. Identify the most risky assumptions that you're making about the market.
  2. Build the "minimum viable product" that will allow you to test your assumptions, and release it.
  3. Measure how users interact with your product to learn how valid are your assumptions.
  4. Based on real data, come up with new ideas to improve or change the product, and run them through the same process. And so on...
The Lean Startup builds new products incrementally, each iteration fine-tuning the product according to real feedback from the market (or changing strategy — "pivot" — if necessary). Overall, The Lean Startup brings together Agile development and Customer development methods in one model.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Power of Theories

I was recently reminded of how much anti-intellectualism is present around me (how naive of me). Some find it cool to reject models and theories as mere mental masturbation. Abstractions would make unnecessarily complex what is otherwise straight-forward. I believe Eric Reis, who recently published the book The Lean Startup (2011), must have encountered a similar resistance when preaching for his product development and innovation model. Here is an excerpt of his book:
"Knowing Lean Startup principles makes me feel like I have superpowers. Even though I'm just a junior employee, when I meet with corporate VP's and GMs in my large company, I ask them simple questions and very quickly help them see how their projects are based on fundamental hypotheses that are testable. In minutes, I can lay out a plan they could follow to scientifically validate their plans before it's too late. They consistently respond with 'Wow, you are brilliant. We've never thought to apply that level of rigor to our thinking about new products before.'" 
As a result of these interactions, [this junior employee] has developed a reputation within his large company as a brilliant employee. This had been good for his career but very frustrating for him personally. Why? Because although he is quite brilliant, his insights into flawed product plans are due not to his special intelligence but to having a theory that allows him to predict what will happen and propose alternatives. He is frustrated because the managers he is pitching his ideas to do not see the system. They wrongly conclude that the key to success is finding brilliant people like him to put on their teams. They are failing to see the opportunity he is really presenting them: to achieve better results systematically by changing their beliefs about how innovation happens. (p. 276) (bold emphasis mine)
The key question is not whether you adopt a belief system or not, it is whether you consciously choose one or stay subject to the one you've been inculcated.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Intro sur la Théorie Intégrale de Ken Wilber (en français !)

Ça faisait un petit moment que je pensais à faire une vidéo en français pour expliquer la théorie intégrale. Pour un ensemble de raisons pas très claires, elle est très peu connue en France contrairement à chez nos voisins Européens — Allemagne, Pays-Bas, Espagne, Italie. Même s'il y a des facteurs culturels rendant la France peu réceptive à ce genre d'approche, je me suis finalement lancé, et voilà la première vidéo d'une série sur la théorie intégrale "AQAL" en français !

Le potentiel de la théorie intégrale pour révolutionner notre vision du monde est insoupconné. C'est l'équivalent théorique de cet instrument dans Orange Mécanique qui force à garder les yeux ouverts : elle nous force à regarder la réalité telle qu'elle est, dans toute sa complexité, sa richesse et son mystère. On lui attribue, à raison,  un effet "psycho-actif" : pour celle ou celui qui l'a étudiée, il devient difficile de se retrancher dans les croyances étroites auquelles la société nous a habituée.

C'est aussi un moyen pour moi de finalement expliquer à mes proches et amis ce que je suis venu faire en Californie. J'ai choisi un format simple qui j'espère vous plaira. L'audience première de ces vidéos est intéressée par les sciences et la quête de la connaissance en générale. C'est l'étudiante, le chercheur, qui ont soif d'un modèle leur permettant de voir au delà des clotures de leur champ d'étude.