Startups should be Built to Learn
Eric Ries has published a few great posts (click here, here, and here) on his April 1st lean startup presentation at Web 2.0 Expo. The title of this post is actually borrowed from his response to a comment made by one of his readers. According to Eric:
[This] point is the one that seems to have had the biggest impact from the talk as a whole: that startups should be built to learn. That’s the essence of so many of the lean startup techniques I’ve evangelized: customer development, the Ideas/Code/Data feedback loop, and the adaptation of agile development to the startup experience.
As learning and learning through experimentation are central themes in Agile, I encourage readers of this blog to take a good look at what Eric writes. I would also like to add a few quick reflections:
- It does not really matter whether you are part of a tiny startup or working for a $100B company. Eric’s heart seems to be in startups, but his insights are broadly applicable.
- Jean discusses the “goal of improving my notion of learning” in a recent blog post and accompanying dialog. Her thinking as well as many of the references she cites nicely complement Eric’s ideas.
- In The Living Company, author Arie de Geus strongly emphasizes institutional learning as a critical capability. Learning to de Geus is about sensitivity to the surrounding environment and willingness to change to be in harmony with it.
All these threads about learning indicate a company is more likely to survive for the long haul if it has the capacity to learn. The threads are linked in a fascinating manner to Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. It seems that learning as a survival imperative applies equally well to the individual, the team, the corporation and society.