The Lean Startup was first introduced to me by my boyfriend, Alex who is an avid reader and very interested in subjects of entrepreneurship and new technology.

One of the many reasons, we get along really well and never run out of things to talk about is that we share the same passion for self development and having an impactful and wildly successful career (whatever it may be).

Prior to reading this book, we fundamentally disagreed on the idea of entrepreneurship. While Alex was more open minded to working for startups full-time and heavily involved in developing his own coding and business skills for the sake for entrepreneurship,  I thought learning the traditional IE and lean principles was a safer bet, at least to start off my career.

The Lean Startup redefined what “startups” even were in my head. I imagined something stemming from the show Silicon Valley. A couple of nerdy guys in hoodies coding their way through their careers, and living on ramen trying to make a big dream come true.

However, I failed to realize that startups can also happen internally in a big (usually tech) company as well. In fact that’s what roles such as Product Managers are hired on for and that’s why companies such as IBM still develop and release new products.

When Alex and I would discuss business ideas and such he would often comment about how he was surprised that I wasn’t super “into” the entrepreneurship hype. I used to always tell him I’d rather be safe than sorry but I after reading this book, I begin to think about how the startup culture can be quite compatible with old fashioned lean principles. For example, Ries talks about how startups do need efficient and proven methods in both management and data collection in order to thrive moving forward.

Further into the book, Ries discusses not only the classic lean concepts like eliminating waste in the process of data collection, specifically, in seeing what customers want, but also concepts that I had learned a lot about in my human factors class (IE 486). Tools and skills such as implementing usability tests on potential customers is a topic that was widely discussed, since early customer “buy-in” is a leading indicator on how successful a startup idea could/will be.

On the subject of running UX/IX tests, Ries challenges the concept of what is considered value-added and non-value added in the book. Traditionally, in a value stream mapping event where a employee usually with the items considered as value added are strictly actions that physically add what the customer defines as value (a part or function) to the product. Therefore, actions such as inspection of a product are usually considered non-value added. The ultimate goal in lean is to reduce waste and all “non value added actions.” Ries argues that similar to actions such as inspection, usability tests and gathering customer feedback can be considered a “value-added” action as long as the lessons learned about the customer preference leads to actionable items. This revolutionized my premonitions about the actions that are considered important when looking to improve a system. I agree with the author about listening to the voice of the customer when producing anything is not only valuable but mandatory in a successful business.

This is a great book for not only an aspiring entrepreneur but also a manager in operations looking for ways to be more innovative.