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Lean Startup Series [Lean Startup
Posted on January 4, 2017 @ 01:07:00 PM by Paul Meagher

I'm planning on re-reading the landmark book The Lean Startup (2011) by Eric Ries.

My reading strategy is going to be a bit different this time. I am going to adopt a reading strategy similar to the strategy I used for another landmark book I did a series of blogs about; namely, Permaculture Principles: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002) by David Holmgren. The Permaculture Principles book is broken down into twelve sustainability principles with wide ranging discussion around each of these principles. You can also go online and see what others have said about each Permaculture principle by googling the name of the principle (e.g., permaculture principle "Obtain A Yield"). It is common for those wanting to learn Permaculture as a set of principles to think up their own applications of each Permaculture principle and either enact it, blog about it, write a song about it, or do something that expresses their take on the principle. My approach was to blog about each principle which I did over a 4 month period from mid April to early July, 2015 (April 2015, May 2015, June 2015, July 2015).

Interestingly, the core of the Lean Startup book also consists of 12 chapters and each of these chapters could be viewed as a lean startup principle. The book is broken down into three main parts (Vision, Steer, Accelerate) with 4 principles per part:

  1. Vision
    1. Start
    2. Define
    3. Learn
    4. Experiment
  2. Steer
    1. Leap
    2. Test
    3. Measure
    4. Pivot (or persevere)
  3. Accelerate
    1. Batch
    2. Grow
    3. Adapt
    4. Innovate

For completeness, I should mention that there are also "Introduction", "Epilogue", and "Join the movement" chapters that I consider non-core and don't intend to blog about. Each of the above-mentioned lean startup principles is only one word long so it is quite open ended as to what the principle is specifically asking you to do. Each chapter/principle is stated in imperative mode (i.e., start, define, learn, experiment, etc...) which suggests that they are to be taken as stating a particular design principle indexed by that action label.

Even though I could reread this book in a few days, I will resist the urge to mow through it. I will read each chapter/principle separately, think about it, check online discussion of it, and then blog about it before moving onto the next chapter/principle. Advocates of slow food encourage people to slow down on food-related matters in order to better appreciate the many aspects of it. Likewise, I will slowing down on reading this book to better assimilate the message and relate it to my own experiences and ideas.

Because lean startup theory takes a scientific approach to starting a business, I am particularly interested in exploring the idea of whether some recent research in causal models might be used to extend or clarify some of the lean startup principles. Previously I discussed how lean startup theory might be formalized/visualized when I talked about the lean startup lens. I think more can be done to formalize/visualize what "validated learning" actually consists of, but it will involve incorporating some newer ideas about causation that Judea Pearl has been pioneering in his own landmark book Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference (2009, 2nd Edition):

I recommend reading the epilogue of the book (PDF link) to get a sense of issues the book addresses in technical detail.

For me, it comes down to this. Does including the word "causal" in the phrase "lean startup" add anything useful to the lean startup approach? What role might causal modelling and reasoning have in the success of a lean startup? Maybe nothing, or maybe incorporating a few of these ideas can help to make the lean startup approach stronger just as recent critical discussion of Permaculture has helped to make Permaculture stronger. I'm also interested in relating some lean startup ideas to some Permaculture ideas as there many similarities, one being the focus on design principles as a way to convey a body of knowledge.

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