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The Lean Startup: Experiment [Lean Startup
Posted on January 25, 2017 @ 07:28:00 AM by Paul Meagher

This is the fifth blog in my anticipated 13 blog series dedicated to each chapter of Eric Ries' seminal book The Lean Startup (2011).

The fourth chapter is titled "Experiment". The object of experimentation is the startup vision. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to test their startup vision by 1) starting small, 2) experimenting immediately, and 3) breaking it down.

Starting small

Although your vision may be big, you should start by figuring out ways to test a smaller version of your vision. In the case Zappos, a company with the vision of becoming the leading e-commerce retailer of shoes, they started by taking pictures of shoes from a local shop and agreeing to purchase them at cost from the retailer if anyone ordered them online. This provided them with valuable opportunities for validated learning on what works and what doesn't at an early stage of their companies journey. The lean startup literature offers useful ideas such as minimum viable product for how you might test a smaller version of your product or service.

Experiment immediately

If you start small, you can begin to experiment immediately on testing your vision. Some entrepreneurs may feel the need to engage in alot of planning before getting to the stage of testing their vision. This imperative reminds startups to start testing their vision as soon as possible to get feedback that will shape the details of your vision or cause you to pivot.

Break it down

You can also engage in testing earlier if you break your grand vision down. The two most important components of your vision is 1) your value hypothesis and 2) your growth hypothesis. Testing your value hypothesis involves testing "whether a product or service really delivers value to customers once they are using it" (p. 61). Testing your growth hypothesis involves testing "how new customers will discover a product or service" (p. 61). Your small and immediate testing would ideally address both these components of your vision in some fashion.

By starting small, experimenting immediately, and breaking the startup vision down we can start to gather early feedback from the customer to test the startup vision.

The experiment you create to test your startup vision can also be viewed as your first product that allows you to gather feedback that suggests a new experiment which is the next version of your product. An experiment is a product is the last main point that Eric wanted to get across in this chapter.

What I would add to this chapter is that not only is it important to experiment, it is also important to observe and interact (Permaculture Principle # 1). If you are starting a market gardening operation you would want to observe and interact with potential customers to determine what is best to grow. Experimentation suggests a more exacting standard for achieving validated learning than is sometimes necessary. So I would add observation and interaction with customers as additional means of generating and testing hypothesis related to your startup vision.

As a final note I would like to re-affirm my belief that a great way to absorb as book is to engage in "slow reading" of it. I never got much from this chapter on my first reading and had to re-read sections a few times to appreciate the structure of the chapter and what lean startup guidance it was offering.

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