5 Big Ideas From Running Lean (Summary) by Ash Maurya

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Running Lean Summary - Ash Maurya

Ash Maurya’s Running Lean serves us well as a follow up read to Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup (Check out my Book Summary ). Ash provides us with an actionable guide on how to apply the methodology right away. Ash’s reconstruction of the Business Model Canvas (which I’ve discussed here) serves as the spine of the book, but aside from that -- there are three major ideas that deserve highlighting in this Running Lean summary:

running lean summary

Big Idea #1:  Your ‘product’ is more than your solution.​

As entrepreneurs we tend to focus on the “Solution” while ignoring the other important components. Indeed, the solution is important. But the ‘Problem’ is even more important. Customers don’t care about your solution if it’s solving a problem they don’t have. 

Furthermore, other components like ‘Pricing’ and ‘Customer Channels’ also encompass your product. Ignoring these components and focusing only on your ‘core product’ may be disastrous (Case Study: Spotify vs Rdio)

My thoughts: Applying this holistic view has been one of the most empowering steps that helped me transition from a solution-focused Software-Engineer to a Product Manager & Entrepreneur

Big Idea #2: Build a path to your customers from DAY ONE.​

The “Channel” you use to attain customers is part of your product, and should therefore be tested & and built with your product. Certain channels are more obvious than other and may not need extensive testing. But you’ll still need time to build it. For example, if you are going to rely on SEO or word-of-mouth as your channel -- you may want to start laying the groundwork asap. Spend 60% of your time building your product and 40% building your channel. (G. Weinberg, author of Traction, suggests a 50-50 ratio.)

My thoughts: You’ll notice a lot of failed startups with great products; and ‘successful’ startups with bad/average products. The difference between the two: Customers. Customer discovery & customer exploration is a recurring theme in this Running Lean summary.

Big Idea #3: Customers don't care about your solution - they care about their problems

This is is a big one. I touched on this in Big Idea #1 of this Running Lean summary. But I think it deserves its own point. Figure out what your customers really care about.  And more often than not you will find that what they care about may not be inline with your "solution". But this isn't a bad thing at all. In fact, it's part of the customer discovery phase and is an expected outcome.  However, ensure that you're not taking the customer's words as gospel. Their actions will speak volumes more than their words.  Henry Ford once said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they'd have asked for faster horses"

My thoughts:  This is one of those tricky lessons that may seem counter-intuitive. One one hand you're being asked to talk to your customers. But on the other hand, you're being told not take them seriously.  Steve Jobs reinforces the confusion with his famous quote "It's not the customer's job to know what he wants".  This combined with Ford's quote seem to empower entrepreneurs to completely ignore the customer.  But that's a perilous mistake. Talking to your customer's is like one of the golden tickets of an entrepreneur. It's like being allowed to cheat on an exam legally!  Further reading on this:  Cheating On The Exam!

Big Idea #4: Metrics don’t explain themselves.​

While metrics are extremely useful in driving clarity, they don’t tell the entire story. Metrics can only point to WHAT your users are doing, but not WHY they are doing it. Sure, you can probably decipher why they are doing it. But it’s imperative that you treat that as a hypothesis -- especially when the risk to that assumption is high. Establishing a continuous feedback loop with your customers will serve well to avoid missteps in the wrong direction.

My thoughts: I’ve wasted a lot of time not talking to customers/stakeholders myself. It’s surprising to discover the extent to which our worldviews can differ. You can’t possibly ‘know’ whether you’re simply making assumptions until you ‘Get out of the building’. In his book Four Steps to Epiphany, Steve Blank puts forward a process of establishing a ‘Continuous Feedback Loop’. I highly recommend it. (Check out the Reading List)

Big Idea #5 : Maximize for Learning with Speed & Focus 

I will conclude this Running Lean summary with the most important take away: Learn.  The early stages of a startup should consist primarily of learning. So don't worry about scalable servers and optimizing your website. Trying to scale before you've figured out what the customer wants is an extreme waste of time.  Most of your efforts should be prioritized on learning - not just about your customer, but about your business on a whole.  While doing so, you need to be fast and focussed.  If you don't move fast enough - you may miss your opportunity (and/or waste valuable resources). If you don't focus you will fall into the trap of premature scaling.

Running Lean Summary : Final Thoughts

My thoughts: I hope you enjoyed this Running Lean summary. Ash Maurya has done a terrific job with this book. These principles can be applied by entrepreneurs, product managers & directors of innovation teams. I definitely recommend this book.

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Did you enjoy this Running Lean summary? Let me know in the comments below! You can also pick up Running Lean from Amazon in hardcover, Kindle or Audiobook format 🙂

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About the author

Shawn Dexter

Shawn Dexter is a Product Manager, Entrepreneur & Software Developer. He is passionate about innovation management & technology.

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