When starting a business you often have a perceived product in mind. It will be great and everybody will use this – you tell yourself. The reality will settle in when your financial buffer deteriorates, family and friends start to lose faith, your product won’t come along as quickly as you thought and user adoption seems a rare thing. I have experienced this first hand, and I can tell you it can be challenging (understatement) on all kinds of levels. Many fail, and perseverance doesn’t necessarily express itself in success.
What you search for is a hand, some red line that you can follow that can order the chaos and bring valuable focus.
Eric Ries offers this hand in the form of a book. He teaches you the do’s and don’ts when it comes to starting a product company. Before you know it you’ll be back on track and words like
- pivot or persevere (feedback loop)
- innovation accounting
- value proposition
- Minimally Viable Product (MVP)
- validated learning
- “how would Ries do this”
will hum through your head. And if applied thoroughly, the sound of money will ring in your ears 😉
- you are running a product business
- you are innovating from within a bigger company
- you want to understand why your boss is so keen on agile methodologies and keeps changing course so often
Orbiting the Giant Hairball.
Ries would probably describe this book as a guide for intrapreneurism. Working in a big company doesn’t have to kill creativity or innovation. Consider the rules and structures in the organisation as being the hairball, and try not to get entangled with it, but rather orbit it. Orbiting allows you become independent and create your own path, but you can only do that by using the gravity of the organisation. You are free in some sense, but still have a guided path in which you can bring your purpose and contribute to the tides within the hairball.
The book is colorful and creatively set up. The further you read, the more the images you’ve seen around you make sense.
I in particular like MacKenzies analogy of corporate structures. He compares them to a pyramid, and a plum tree.
The pyramid comparison we’ve seen all to much.
- only the top can see well
- middle management is putting weight on the stack, and cannot see well enough.
- they shout down to the employees, that cannot see around at all and are completely crushed by the weight of the middle management and top.
It is certainly hard to get anything out of the bottom of that pyramid.
Then he compares a wanted scenario with the tree:
- the soil (Company funds) feeds the trunk (management) with everything needed to supply the middle management (the branches) to feed the leaves (people) and flowers (products and initiatives)
- the leaves can see clearly around them what is coming
- trees like this grow fruit (money) quicker
It is more of a support structure, for the people that do the actual hands-on work, instead of the other way around.