The goal of a startup is to figure out the right thing to build—the thing customers want and will pay for—as quickly as possible. In other words, the Lean Startup is a new way of looking at the development of innovative new products that emphasizes fast iteration and customer insight, a huge vision, and great ambition, all at the same time.
The first feedback loop in startups is like that in a car's engine and I call it the engine of growth.
Every new version of a product, every new feature, and every new marketing program is an attempt to improve this engine of growth. New product development happens in fits and starts. Much of the time in a startup’s life is spent tuning the engine by making improvements in product, marketing, or operations.
The second important feedback loop is similar to what is in an automobile and is between the driver and the steering wheel. This feedback is so immediate and automatic that we often don’t think about it., The choreography of driving is incredibly complex when one slows down to think about it. By contrast, a rocket ship requires just this kind of in-advance calibration. It must be launched with the most precise instructions on what to do: every thrust, every firing of a booster, and every change in direction. The tiniest error at the point of launch could yield catastrophic results thousands of miles later. Unfortunately, too many startup business plans look more like they are planning to launch a rocket ship than drive a car.
They prescribe the steps to take and the results to expect in excruciating detail, and as in planning to launch a rocket, they are set up in such a way that even tiny errors in assumptions can lead to catastrophic outcomes.
The Lean Startup method, in contrast, is designed to teach you how to drive a startup. Instead of making complex plans that are based on a lot of assumptions, you can make constant adjustments with a steering wheel called the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop.
Through this process of steering, we can learn when and if it’s time to make a sharp turn called a pivot or whether we should persevere along our current path. Once we have an engine that’s revved up, the Lean Startup offers methods to scale and grow the business with maximum acceleration.
Startups also have a true north, a destination in mind: creating a thriving and world-changing business. I call that a startup’s vision. To achieve that vision, startups employ a strategy, which includes a business model, a product road map, a point of view about partners and competitors, and ideas about who the customer will be. The product is the end result of this strategy.
The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries