Unfolding plans 130 – Lean start up

Lean start up sounded an interesting concept.  Justin, one of my colleagues at Dynamo was telling me about it.  In essence I took it to be a way of shaping your business ideas before you get too bogged down in business plans and financing.  It is a way of making sure that your idea has a potential market before you go into production.

Anyway it sounded a useful approach to help our own service become more agile and responsive in its own product and service development.  Our traditional approach has been to think up ideas for products and services that may have legs and then go away and develop them.  Months later we come back with an often over-bloated product that never seems to get the market traction that we had hoped.

And this is where lean start up comes in.

We assume that our products and services will meet a need and that this need can be translated into money.  We assume that our customers will be prepared to pay for them.  What we don’t do is test our assumptions.  We rarely engage with our customers over new development to gauge whether they would be prepared to pay.

So, we arranged a lean start up workshop.  It will be a two day affair and the first day was held last week in Stanley Civic Hall.  I know it as the Lamplight Theatre.  There were a dozen of us involved.  Justin led the workshop.

He took us through the general concepts and some of the background.  Each of us brought a product idea that we wanted to test.  Some were zany (air-conditioned trousers to keep your neither regions cool) and some sounded eminently sensible (plastic rabbit hutch which would make cleaning much easier).

We worked in pairs.  I was with Graham.  His idea was much better than mine but as it was more business to business it was going to be a little difficult to test.  It was to do with using spare capacity to brew niche beers.  It would have required us to do extensive testing in local hostelries.  Instead we went with mine which was a portable washing device for use when you go on holiday.

Using the tools we had learned about we documented our hypotheses about the customers we were aiming for and the problem that this product would solve.  We decided that the product would be aimed at holiday makers, especially those with young families, and that it would stop people having to take too many clothes with them and not having huge amounts of washing when they come back.

And that is when the fun began.  We set off into Stanley High Street to ask potential customers whether or not such a service would be of interest.  Boy, were Graham and I out of our comfort zones!

It turned out that all our assumptions were wrong.  Finding people who went on holiday in Stanley was a challenge in itself.  Those with young families were a no no.  Our product was of interest but potentially for those who go camping, caravanning or on activity holidays where they need to wash their kit.

We had to rethink our assumptions.  We had to pivot.  I’m looking forward to the second session.

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