I have mixed feelings about this book. Firstly, normally, I bond with my authors but by the end of this book I felt rather indifferent to Eric Ries. Maybe it’s because I could sense that he wasn’t smiling as he narrated or perhaps the absence of examples of female entrepreneurs embittered me. I think he mentioned a woman like once in the entire book - an executive at a large corporation, not even a real startup. Don’t tell me there aren’t any because there most definitely are.
Nonetheless, I would give the book 3.5 out of 5. I liked it because it had a lot of examples about different companies, the problems that they encountered and the innovative solutions that took them out of these situations or the inaction that led to their demise.
Overall, Mr Ries is trying to create a theory for what leads to successful enterprise. He thinks it is a formula that can be learnt. Personally, I do not subscribe to this view. The most difficult aspect of starting a business is actually starting and for that you need guts, a lot of guts. Whilst there may be common traits amongst entrepreneurs, I don’t think you can put them into a box. Every entrepreneur teaches me something totally different.
- Something I really had not considered was the idea of how producing small batches is more efficient than large ones. Apparently, if you have many envelopes to fill, the fastest way to get the job done is by completing one at a time, rather than stuffing them, then sealing them all, then addressing them and so on. The latter method doesn’t account for the time wasted moving around and sorting the lot. In manufacturing, this idea of small batches enables a quick turn-around if there is a problem and allows more flexibility in the process.
- I also liked the idea of stopping the whole production process if there is significant glitch. Common sense might suggest that it’s better to go on with the rest of the production line but Toyota discovered that this method is actually more efficient because big problems are sorted quickly. Apparently, at Toyota all workers are trained to flag an issue the moment they notice it so that everything can be halted and the issue fixed.
- Importantly, figure out quickly if your proposition isn’t working and pivot – i.e. change direction.
- If a problem occurs, ask “why?” five times.
There are a few other things I liked but rather than showcase them all here I will suggest you get the book and see what you can glean from it for yourself. In addition read up on the Toyota way. This Wikipedia link is a great place to start.
One idea I didn’t like was the idea of student-of-one. Apparently, some people are trying to redesign the education system so that learning is customized to the person and children learn at their own speed. It sounds good in theory but since when has acquiring knowledge been the sole premise of school? What about learning to tolerate and interact with others? What about emotional intelligence? I am definitely not a Luddite but I think there is a fundamental flaw in moving from having teachers teaching kids through to impersonal videos that send feedback to the teacher via internet.
If you are wondering who Eric Ries is, he is a multimillionaire and founder of a company called IMVU. I don’t really get what value IMVU adds to a life. People create avatars of themselves in a virtual world and spend money building up their little lives. Hmm? I’m quite anti- needless consumerism but each to his own.
- If you want to start a business, don’t spend all your time building a complex product that nobody ultimately likes. Instead, create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Genchi Genbutsu, that is, “go and see”: test it out to see if there is a market for it. If you gain some traction build your way up from there.
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