Running Lean: Innovation Accounting

Today I attended a webcast at Room to Think on Innovation Accounting: How Lean Startups Define, Measure, and Communicate Success by Ash Maurya. It was the first of hopefully many more video-related events at Room to Think, and my second brush with the "Lean Startup" philosophy after the all-day simulcast of the Lean Startup conference in December.

First of all, I'm not of the MBA mindset. "Risk Management" and "Business Model vs. Business Plan" are not natural topics to reside in my mind. Like many programmers, I have a knee-jerk reaction to dismiss a lot of biz talk as useless. However, if you get on a team that doesn't have a playbook at all, you'll quickly discover how chaotic if can get on the scrimmage line. A collection of understandable, even sometimes obvious, tenets is better to have on hand than just assume your common sense is everyone's common sense. In my perception thus far, Lean does the least bad job coexisting with the reality of software, so I am willing to continue risking its acquaintance.

A lot of the content of his talk dwelled on how to physically use his Lean Canvas process, where a structure mind map is developed around a business and their vision, strategy, and product. Despite the lack of riveting delivering, there is something alluring about a paint-by-number system for analyzing a business, making it structured makes it brief and repeatable, like a Design Pattern for business. A lot of the content of the talk was seemingly re-purposed from his two blog posts here: Lean Canvas Part 1 and Lean Canvas Part 2. Read up if you're interested, I'll spare the summary here.

In the follow-up discussion in the group, we more stepped back to how our personal views were affected by the larger implications of a Vision-first approach to a business, rather than the ever-tempting Product-first approach. The core purpose of a new business is not to "get a new product to market ASAP", but to "find what people want and charge for it ASAP", and Ash was persuasive in this argument.