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Bola Owoade

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Senior Learning and Development Advisor

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Innovation The Lean Startup Way


In 2011 Eric Ries wrote a ground breaking book titled, The Lean Startup, based on his experiences of failure and subsequently success as an entrepreneur. Now the lean startup concept has become a movement. Startup businesses have adopted it and even established businesses are using the concept. The lean startup is based on the belief that a startup is not a business, but a search to validate an idea and then convert it into a successful business model. The lean startup method provides a framework to conduct experiments which will prove whether the startup idea will be successful or not. The framework is called Build-Measure-Learn and it consist of three phases.

  1. The Build phase consists of creating an experiment by first defining an hypothesis, for example people will use this app to hail a taxi. Next build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) which is a functional version of the product that has the least features and can be released to real customers in the quickest possible time.
  2. The Measure phase monitors the use of the MVP by customers and in the process collects customer behaviour and usage data. For example how many people are using the app to call a taxi and how frequently are they using it.
  3. The final phase is Learn where insights are derived from the Measure phase about how customers are using the MVP. The learning derived allows the person who created the experiment to make a decison which could be either: continue with the product because it has been relatively successful, pivot, which involves changing the product (this will lead to another experiment) or scrapping the idea if the data shows it is a clear waste of time.

When doing experiments to test the validity of an idea two hypotheses are being tested which are:

  1. The value hypothesis: will people be interested in the product or service?
  2. The growth hypothesis: will enough people use it to the point that it can become a sustainable product or service.

Ries also talks about innovation accounting which is used specifically for startup ideas.

If you want to read a much more detailed review of the book, access it through this link.  

For Learning Practitioners

There are a number of useful principles in the book that learning and development practitioners can adopt. For instance we can use the build-measure-learn framework to release, test and improve learning products. The framework can help us create a safer environment where we can take risks by testing new ideas. For example Rick wants to introduce the use of videos to help people in his organisation learn about key IT concepts. He purchases a copy of Camtasia and records three videos explaining some IT concepts and creates a link to the videos via their Intranet. He also emails out the links to the whole organisation explaining what people will be able to do using the videos. By doing this Rick has set up an experiment to test the validity of whether using videos for IT training will work or not using a quick MVP of three videos designed with Camtasia.

To learn Rick sends out an email with some questions wanting to know how many people used  the videos and whether it helped them to complete the task explained in the videos. From the data that comes back Rck learns that some people love the videos and some people struggled with learning that way. He also learnt that using annotations on the video might also be helpful. Rick now knows that using video for IT training will work for some people, if not for everybody, but at least it can decrease the dependence on face to face IT training. He also has some ideas onhow to improve the videos.

What Rick has done is introduced a new learning method without having to go through months of planning, design and then delivery. He has created an MVP which is a good enough learning product which people can learn with, and the product was neither expensive to create in terms of time or money. Learning and development practitioners can use this approach to test new learning concepts in their organisation. For instance if you have been thinking about introducing social learning, mobile learning, 702010 or action learning learning, why don't you try using the Build-Measure_learn framework?

The advantage of this approach for learning practitioners is that it can make us act in a more innovative way and ultimately help us become more effective, because the more experiments we conduct, the better we will be able to identify things that work and those that don't work.

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Bola Owoade

Senior Learning and Development Advisor

Read more from Bola Owoade

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