Book Review: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

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The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses

I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago and have to say for the most part I really enjoyed it. This was really my introduction to the whole lean start-up movement, and it has definitely strongly influenced how I’ll look at developing products in the future.

The Good

The book is full of interesting anecdotes and stories from Ries experience and research that are mostly provided to support his case that the lean start-up is the way to go. They are combined with practical advice on how to tackle innovation, and what it really means. There are some great phrases that will stay with me for a long time – like (and I’m paraphrasing) “if you put a product out there to see what happens you will always succeed, in see how it does”. It really highlights that in order to decide whether something is a success, it has to be able to fail – i.e. have something measurable that says whether it succeeds or fails. All in all the concepts behind a large portion of the lean startup are really great, and make a lot of sense.

The Bad

On the down side I found the book to be a little unstructured and with too much sales pitch for me. I bought the book because I’d heard about the lean startup movement and really wanted to get an understanding of the core principles and how they fit together. What I found was that a large portion of the book was selling the concepts to me – I actually find this with a lot of books – I think its where an author is trying to validate their theories. For me I was sold on a lot of theories early on, and found some of the sales pitch bits a little annoying. I also found that whilst it filled my head with great ideas, I came away struggling to put it all together into something that’s actionable. Since reading this book I’ve started reading Running Lean by Asha Maurya which provides a much more practical approach to teaching some of these principles.

I also have a pet gripe with one of the underpinning facets of the lean startup movement – that is this influence and constant reference to Toyota’s approach! I’ve really read so much about Toyota and thoroughly agree with the sentiment that they have been incredibly innovative in approach – I’m a huge fan (my brother even works there)!! But I’ve also seen several movements that try to piggy back on the Toyota approach, and interpret each of there principles in different ways. for example I’ve seen different companies interpret the ‘single piece flow’ concept into entirely different things. I feel like the lean startup movement started with some truly innovative concepts of their own such as the minimum viable product, and proceeded to ‘flesh out’ the theories  with those borrowed from Toyota. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I may change my opinion, but for now I’m not a fan of this!

In The End

Although I have just ranted about the down side of the book and concept, I feel that there is far more good than bad about the whole movement. After reading this and doing some further research, I definitely consider myself a proponent of the movement – and I think the whole thing really makes sense, especially if you enjoy continuous integration / deployment / delivery.

Really enjoyed this book, and it has definitely changed my approach. Small gripes but nothing too much.

Stars: 4 out of 5

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