The common way to develop a product or service is this: a company will go through great efforts to build something, bring the complete product to market, and sell it. This is true from a Ford truck to a sandwich sold from a food cart. It is normal to expect such a product to perform well; after all, the hard work is done, right?
Writer and entrepreneur Eric Ries proposes is a different model. In his book ‘The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses,’ Ries calls on entrepreneurs to create a minimum viable product, or MVP, with the barest of resources and functionality. The MVP is then subject to deliberate experimentation to understand just how and why a customer uses it. Based on the information gained from these experiments, the company can perform a pivot. Ries defines a pivot as a ‘structural course correction to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy and engine of growth.’ Overall this prevents a company from pouring resources into a flawed product or strategy.
All his concepts are adroitly explained through his experience at IMVU, an online social media company that utilizes 3-D avatars, the first of its kind in the world. This makes his concepts easy to grasp and much more interesting than they would be on their own.
As your business librarian, I read books all the time that talk the talk about innovation, about working fearlessly and setting goals. Few books explain how a company can actually do this on a constant basis, especially in terms of product development. I love this book because it explains the nitty-gritty of creating a business, and how all businesses should be run, not just tech startups.
Further, the concept of pivoting is important in our own lives as well. How many times have we seen someone expect a different result from the same action? How much better to pivot instead of crash into a wall?
Many great writers call on us to ‘live deliberately.’ I think we would all do well to remember to do business deliberately too, as Eric Ries would have us do.