Lean Startup Machine Weekend - Mark's Turn

Here are some notes and thoughts from Mark Warren on our experience at the Lean Startup Machine Weekend in Boston:

This would be a good experience for people to try. I went as observer to LSM in California earlier in the year and thought this type of venue would be good for Bryan and I to try out our ideas on. Incidentally, other Lean Startup platforms, such as The Hoffman Foundation, are slightly different than LSM, but both Lean Startup formats push you to test your assumptions and pivot. As a an observer, I watched a lot of eager young people try the process: pitch your idea and watch it get shredded! Now we got to try our hand at it!

Most people will see the connection to the JM program…the biggest difference is pushing you to define your guesses in the early stages. The Startup team members encourage you to define your riskiest assumption and (in)validate it.  We found that our riskiest assumption was not necessarily easy to prove. Tom Eisenmann, one of the speakers at the weekend event proposed an improvement: rather than go after the riskiest assumption that must be true for your idea to work, you can rank them by weakest assumption and simplest to test. Often the best approach is to test the simplest assumptions first and save yourself time if it is disproved. 

The other biggest difference between the Startup method and what most people do for a JM or Kaizen project is the weekend project takes a more scientific process of testing one piece at a time, the trap of the Kaizen approach is to change the whole process…you don’t know which change was good or bad, just the sum of the outcomes. This aligns very well with the Teian style of improvement where big problems are broken down in to very small problems and tackled one need at a time.

The next piece was the experience bias…this can be linked to both JI and JR…we think we know so our investigation is skewed by our experience. We really had difficulty in stepping back far enough to get into discovery mode. On the JR side, developing the question sets to "get the facts" was more difficult than we realized, as in the first rounds we created leading questions to validate our assumptions. In the JR ‘getting the facts’, this may be exceptionally difficult if the person doing the fact finding has any involvement with the people in question…personal bias is often hidden.

Overall, the experience was good in the sense that we learned some approaches to prove or disprove our ideas and how to step away from our ideas and not see what we want to believe. It seems there are still some approaches to consider for the format to work really well, but it also has some strong features that make you step out of your comfort zone as well - which is a key point to learning.

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