The Lean Method

What the Lean Method is and why it is important for you in any field

The Lean Method is a rather fascinating technique in which the ideology is rather simple: build only what the market demands. In other words, the Lean Method is a way of reducing “waste,” or basically anything that does not have a dollar bill-value. Why build something no one wants? Eric Ries is the mind behind the idea, and he was very detailed in his book. You should definitely grab a copy of it! When we discuss the Lean Method, we are talking about any industry: writing, game development…and not just business. Without this crucial piece of information at our disposal, we are wasteful businessmen and businesswomen.

Does the Lean Method mean new ideas are necessarily not worth your time?

Yes and no. First and foremost, let us discuss what is called a “second mover company.” When we discuss a new idea, we are usually talking about something untested. The good news is, there are no new ideas in existence. Even “rock-paper-scissors” was a metaphor for futility and weakness. In other words, new ideas work, but you really never want to be on the receiving end of a rejection letter. your best bet is to be a second mover company, or a company that takes MySpace and turns it into Facebook. We want to build what people want to buy, right? Well, sometimes it is best not to have the idea first. That leaves things untested and variable!

Using the Lean Method in a business or marketing workplace or setting

Rather simply put, a business or marketing workplace or setting is the perfect place to implement this concept. When building a business, marketing a business, or running a business, you have to think in terms of waste. What is your product or service’s benefit? What makes it different? Those are questions most newbie entrepreneurs think. The more successful bunch think instead: “What do others want?” If in a business or marketing workplace, you want innovative thinking, but you also want a balance of “new” and “tested.” Why build something nobody wants? In a business setting, this method finds a good place in our hearts. It allows us to ask if we are building something because we think it is good, or because others do, too!

Using the Lean Method as a game, web, app or graphic developer

As a game, web, app or graphic designer, you want to be able to maximize on your ability to produce a product or service others desire. Games, websites, apps and graphics all fall into that “multimedia” category, right? Right. So, multimedia is a rather saturated industry. Did you know what “Angry Birds” was originally a game about throwing rocks into a building? The developers took an idea worth nothing, added colors and angry birds instead of rocks, and made a fortune. In other words, your “new” idea may not be the best one. Sometimes, you need to sit down with people away from your team and instead discuss what they want out of a game, website or app. Start a focus group; start a survey; do something to make sure that before you build it, you are capable of seeing monetary success from it, as well.

Using the Lean Method when you are a self-published author

This one I love. Self-published authors often write because of the tiresome fact that books sell. Wrong. Books do not sell; products do. When writing, you need to write about something people want to read. Start a survey or a focus group to see if your synopsis matches the criteria of “interesting” or “valuable.” Ask questions before writing that entire book, as not everyone will want to read it! I had a client who wrote erotic children’s books. Yeah, that must have been fun, but that does not necessarily mean that the market wanted it (duh, it’s erotic). Rather, he should have shifted pivots and used the Lean Method to write about what children really want out of a good book. He would have saved a lot of time using the Lean Method.

The advantages of the Lean Method in any form of management

Management is the wheel that steers the ship, right? Well, if that is true, you need to be ready to deal with people. I often think of the Lean Method and management coinciding when the manager asks for a performance review of his or her own manner in doing things. Ask weekly how you could improve your management style; ask daily how you could have done things better…the idea of the Lean Method is not isolated as a way to see what people want you to build; it is also a way to see what changes need to be taking place – period. What makes a better workplace? Better management, and if you can find the ability to do so, ask your teammates how you are doing! You never know, they may have actual, valuable feedback for you.

The disadvantages of a new idea (the Lean Method exposed!)

People always think: “what hasn’t been invented?” That is not always the best thing to do. We already discussed “Angry Birds,” where one bad idea turned into a great one with a very small amount of alteration. The disadvantages of a new idea are simple: the idea is untested in the market. I worked for a company once that had a great idea, but they were the “first mover,” i.e. they were the first to run such a concept, and they soon found others wanted something completely similar yet different at the same time. It is often best to think of a new idea as “in development.” When you can think that the idea is still being developed, you have more time to ask questions to potential buyers to see if this is even a good idea. Without that, we fail in business.

When to say “no” to the Lean Method when the idea is too good!

The Lean Method does not belong everywhere. Sometimes, innovation is more important than being right or wrong. MySpace was a new idea, right? It did things pretty well based on no insight from another similar source. The same goes for things like new games, or new books. But remember something: Stephen King had a lot of negative feedback when he started. Even the most innovative, creative ideas deserve some attention-to-detail, but it is not always a bad idea to trust your gut and to trust the market around you. If you fail at a new idea, learn from it.

Best practices for incorporating the Lean Method into your life

Just said it: learn from it. If you want to incorporate the Lean Method into your life, try to look at your life as a business. In fact, my partner company offers Life Business Plans that help you figure out how to live freely and appropriately under guidance of a plan. That plan can be incorporated into your life, and we urge you to check into it as it is a great idea and a great service. When you look at life and the Lean Method, the best thing you can do is try and isolate the variables that make your life work already. “If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it,” is something we always say. When your life is going great, you must ask what causes it to be so great. If your life is in shambles, you must figure out how to pick up the pieces by asking for help.

Last words of advice for using the Lean Method in anything…

In life, we tend to shift to the most novel idea, as it is attractive to think a new idea is going to always work. It is innovative, creative, and the market wants (rather, needs) it, right? Not always true. We make hunch assumptions that life is going to work for us, as the human race is more optimistic than you would think. In this sense, life is a game. It must be lived like a game, too, and in life you ask for the rules of Monopoly or how to play poker; you never just try to do it. If you do, that is not necessarily a bad thing. I feel the most innovative people are those who are able to ask for input on something. If you feel your life is off track, contact Valiance Coaching for help.

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