Under what circumstances should lean startup strategies not be used by consumer-facing Internet companies?

I will give you the theroetical rundown.

I think the answer to this question should be divided into two parts.

First, the recent paradigm shift from long-term strategies to lean, constantly adjusting strategic bits.
The Lean Startup and all that followed it has sure been a blessing not only for engineers but for strategists and entrepreneurs overall. For decades, as you may know, the terms ‘strategy’ and ‘short term’ were not even allowed in the same paragraph. Depending on how and how quickly your market alternates, crudely applying long term strategies can have you bite the dust by the end of the fiscal year. It was time for us to wake up. Young, agile startups outpacing the Goliaths in the game give you a good example for why this has worked quite well for some time now, even in the decades where the term wasn’t coined yet. After all, even evolution dictates quick adaption for those who want to succeed and survive. Rafe Sagarin states correctly in his recent Wired article “When Catastrophe Strikes, Emulate The Octopus”, that not only long term evolutionary adaptation to its habitat but strangely quick adjustments to its surroundings like using two coconut halves as a “powerful armor” pave the way for the octopus’ incredible success. As most of us know by now, many of these priciples can easily be applied to the world of business strategy. So, should we make lean strategies our new totem? This leads me to the second part.

What do we do with this new knowledge?
Paradigm shifts have a strange thing to them: When they occur, they take most of us with us and blow away what was there before them. The ideas of the pre-paradigm-shift-era are no longer valid. This is for enthusiastic reasons. And it helps us adapt the new paradigms more quickly. We often tend to forget, though, to take this knew knowledge with a grain of salt.

I think I have the guts to say that there is no lean business. There is no fat one either. There is always a mixture of both. Think about it: we always use a mixture of long and short term strategies. And that’s the right way to do it. Like the octopus, we need to adjust to long term strategic challenges with long term strategies and big budgets. But short term shifts in our market surroundings demand short term strategic adjustments, quick teams and smaller budgets.

We tend to quickly fall in love with the blow of new wind that paradigm shifts and all the new ideas that come with them bring. After the butterflies are gone, though, we mit realize that it makes sense to apply some rationality to it and see that the world of strategy is not as black and white as most paradigm shifts suggest.

And, to not leave you alone with only the theoretical sauce: one startup that I advise at the moment has received a fat business strategy with a lean engineering strategy, a lean marketing strategy and a fat business development strategy and funds allocated accordingly.

Btw: If anyone wants to read the short but inspiring essay by Rafe Sagarin, there it is: http://www.wired.com/magazine/20…

See the answer on Quora:

Under what circumstances should lean startup strategies not be used by consumer-facing Internet companies?


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