In the Lean Startup model, we are rehabilitating learning with a concept I call validated learning. Validated learning is not after-the-fact rationalization or a good story designed to hide failure. It is a rigorous method for demonstrating progress when one is embedded in the soil of extreme uncertainty in which startups grow. Validated learning is the process of demonstrating empirically that a team has discovered valuable truths about a startup’s present and future business prospects. It is more concrete, more accurate, and faster than market forecasting or classical business planning. It is the principal antidote to the lethal problem of achieving failure: successfully executing a plan that leads nowhere.
Lean thinking defines value as providing benefit to the customer; anything else is waste. In a manufacturing business, customers don’t care how the product is assembled, only that it works correctly. But in a startup, who the customer is and what the customer might find valuable are unknown, part of the very uncertainty that is an essential part of the definition of a startup.
The effort that is not absolutely necessary for learning what customers want can be eliminated. I call this validated learning because it is always demonstrated by positive improvements in the startup’s core metrics.
Remember that validated learning is should always be backed up by empirical data collected from real customers.
The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries