str84wd – straightforward Products Gute Ideen verdienen erfolgreiche Geschäftsmodelle Thu, 26 Jul 2018 12:18:16 +0000 de-DE hourly 1 str84wd – straightforward Products 32 32 Interview with Ash Maurya – Lean Canvas Creator and Author of Running Lean and Scaling Lean Wed, 02 May 2018 05:29:58 +0000

Ash Maurya was guest at the Lean Startup Meetup in Munich, where we had the chance to interview him about Lean Startup and his ideas about the future of the methodology. Hereafter you find the conversation starting with his personal background, followed by the details of his book „Scaling Lean“ and his thoughts about the future trends in lean startup.

The Interview

Thomas Hartmann: Hello Ash, I really love to hear entrepreneur’s stories. I wonder how you got started with your entrepreneurial journey in the first place.

Ash Maurya: From a very early age, I wanted to build

something interesting. I wanted to make a difference. That was the idealistic view of entrepreneurship. I look at that as how I got started, and I describe it as the artist stage because I needed to create my art. It was going to be very different. It was going to be very unique. I learned over the years that if it is too different and too unique, then people do not understand what you are creating—and artists have to earn a livelihood, too.

My second stage was about understanding that artists have to survive, and it really is about learning the skills for building things that are not 10, 20, or 30 years down the road but that people could use today.

Of course, there’s a story after that, but that is how I generally got started. It was more about trying to create something interesting. Over the years, I have learned that there is a lot more than just having an idea: you have to think differently.

Thomas Hartmann: So you started as an artist, but then you realized, “I need to eat,”. How did you actually earn your first dollar in your own business?

Ash Maurya: Yes, I did so by sharing my ideas. So, I started my first company in just the way many entrepreneurs do. I thought, “I have got this idea. It is too important and needs to be protected. I cannot tell another living person because if I do, they will just steal my idea.” But the very first customer I acquired was when I started sharing what the technology that I was building could potentially do. I openly blogged about it. I was given coverage by a bigger company that put it on its homepage at some point. That drove traffic, and that is how customer number one came to me. I did not have to go to them.

Thomas Hartmann: While preparing for the interview, I read a study that says that immigrants in America are twice as likely to be entrepreneurs. Your parents are from India. You were born and raised in Nigeria. I wonder whether that impacted your mindset toward entrepreneurship, or even, perhaps, did it help you in entrepreneurship?

Ash Maurya: The US is an interesting place because everyone there is an immigrant. Those of you who are familiar with the foster syndrome and the underdog-type phenomenon know, that whenever someone moves into an unknown country, there is definitely more pressure.

Immigrants tend to want to prove something. They want to do something, so there is that drive. And I do think that is a factor. I would not say that, in general, every immigrant has entrepreneurial DNA, but I do think that it just creates more of that sense and they have to find their identity. They are perhaps searching harder than someone who was born somewhere under very comfortable circumstances where things are more predictable and normal.

Thomas Hartmann: Ash, what is actually driving you as an entrepreneur? What is your big vision or your big goal in your work?

Ash Maurya: That brings me to the third part of the story. The first stage that I talked about is the artist stage. This is where you think, “Let me create interesting art for which people will recognize me.” Then, you realize that you have to turn that into a business, so you learn skills on how to make money, such as learning how to price something and learning how to do the marketing, among other things. All those are life skills that one can learn. At some point, when you make enough money and realize your satisfaction goes down. I think that is the initial driver for this third stage. To me, the first stage is about learning more about the purpose: what are we here for?

What inspires me now is the opportunity to try to help the next generation avoid making all the mistakes that I have made. It is funny when people sometimes read one of my books and say, “I wish I had read your book five years ago.” (It probably is five years ago now.) Then, I reply, “Me too. I wish I read the book back then.” This is because I made every mistake that I tell people not to make. So, to me, that is a kind of inspiration.

But, in the final analysis, I think that when we create more entrepreneurs, we create more opportunities. That, to me, is the priority.

Thomas Hartmann: The first book, Running Lean, was about helping people carve out their ideas, and now you have a second one, Scaling Lean. What did you want to change with the book?

Ash Maurya: If you look at the first book, it was all about, “How do I build the right product and how do I build what customers want?” It takes a lot of inspiration from the works of Eric Ries and Steve Blank and the article Get Outside the Building. My question was, “… and do what?” So Running Lean is more about how to uncover what customers want before you actually start building and then start the process of getting your first ten customers.

The second book was written as a result of the problems that the first one created. What I mean by that is that people would come back inside the building and say, “I went and talked to 10 people. They liked my product. Now give me money, or give me resources to get started.” They would go through the stakeholders’ items, which are as follows: “I need to see a forecast. I need to see a more elaborate business plan. This is nice, but it is at a very small scale.”

That is what the second book begins to address. It is about the conversation that the entrepreneur needs to have with their stakeholder and how to share their idea such that it is more numbers-oriented.

Much of the book is about how to use the right metrics; how to perform innovation accounting, which is a term that every start-up will recognize; and how to do that with the smallest number of metrics possible.

Thomas Hartmann: In the early days of a product or start-up, it is really hard to measure progress. I think the first part of your book addresses that, and you suggested that “traction is the one metric that matters above everything else”. Tell us about that idea and why you think so.

Ash Maurya: Yes, I think most people recognize traction as a hockey stick curve, and it creates a Pavlovian predictable response. If I walk into any stakeholder’s office and show a graph, which is a hockey stick curve, and do not even label the Y-axis, they will still ask me to take a seat and say, “What did you just do? Let’s talk about it.” That is the power of traction.

The problem though is that too many people gain traction, by measuring what we call the “vanity metric.” People who have numbers of signups or even revenue, can show the numbers in a way, which show an illusion of growth. But if you normalize that, it is no longer growth—it is perhaps just flat-lining.

Many of the investors have become more sophisticated such that they can smell any metric from a mile away, which makes you want to be a lot more careful with how you present progress in a start-up. I define traction, which I consider to be a very poorly defined term, as the rate at which a business model creates monetizable value.

That is a very specific definition, and there is usually only one metric, at the most two, that everyone agrees with, which measures traction. If that number is going up into the right, it means that the business model is working.

I will give you a very simple example: I am Airbnb and I just talk about the number of guests in my book, not the number of listings but the number of guests in my book. That number goes up week over week and month over month. You, as an investor, have nothing on you. My business model is growing. You may ask me if I know how it is growing, I repeat it, and I do more of it—the growth is undeniable.

To me, identifying the one or two metrics that matter is the key to understanding traction, and that becomes the North Star Metric.

Thomas Hartmann:So the first step is to identify the metric that is good for the business, and then, in the second part of the book, you combine two ideas: Pirate metrics and the constraint theory from the book The Goal, and you called it a factory blueprint. Can you tell us about the idea and how to apply that?

Ash Maurya: Yes. I read the book The Goal many years ago. I think that it is a very interesting concept, and I have used it in software. For those of you who know the theory of constraints or Kanban, that idea is to identify bottlenecks in a production system and then optimize work.

The big idea behind constraints thinking is that if you are trying to optimize the production of the factory forward, you can optimize all the machines, which is a very expensive way. If you just find the slowest machine and optimize that one, you have solved the constraint. Now the bottleneck, which is the next slowest machine, shifts to something else, and then you repeat the process.

I found the same pattern with business models. I also had this epiphany one day that all of us in our businesses are doing exactly the same thing. I mean, we all think that we build products, but in the final analysis, we are building customers. I do not know anyone who would not want more customers in their business. Is anyone here not in the business of building customers? Yes, I did not think so. You want more customers. Period.

So if you build that customer factory blueprint, the idea is that there are some very specific steps that you can take customers through toward building customers, so for all intents and purposes married up the two concepts.

Thomas Hartmann: But how does an entrepreneur find the constraint in his start-up? And furthermore isn’t marketing getting attention a natural constraint of any start-up?

Ash Maurya: So, at any point in time, there usually is a single constraint. There can be a few bottlenecks; however, the idea is to do what we normally would do in marketing, which is the funnel analysis: trying to find the leakiest bucket. The next step is to ask why that is really occurring. Of all the things that one could be doing, as we were saying, we want to find more customers; we want to keep them longer; and we want to encourage them to refer us to others. But at any given point in time, it is not all of the above.

For me, it is only about getting the start-up team to actually visualize the entire customer factory. You have to figure out not only the leakiest part and the slowest part in the factory but also the root causes. If you cannot get to the root causes, you cannot optimize anything. So, it may not always be a product problem; it may sometimes be a personnel problem. We close our accounts perhaps because we are really bad at sales, so we need to hire someone with more experience or get trained in how to sell things. But until you know those things, you cannot really optimize anything.

Thomas Hartmann: Okay, so we have the first step traction, second step factory blueprint. What is the next step? Experiments?

Ash Maurya: When you find a constraint, all that the constraint tells you is where the hotspot is. So, this is where you have the most defects. This is where you are losing the most number of customers or people are leaving and not coming back. But then, you have to get to the why, and that is the basis for our new tagline.

When I started one of my paradigms was  “Practice Trump’s Theory” because a lot of people ask, “How do you take ideas and really make them practicable?” But today, the new paradigm is that we are driven by ”Love the Problem.” If you can really identify the problem, not the solution, to me that is the prerequisite first step. Again, when I look at a constraint, all it tells me is that at this point in time, we are losing customers, but we do not know why. Too many teams will then start throwing a bunch of ideas out there, and sometimes someone gets lucky. But, if you start with the solution, it is like making a key without a door. You know you can sometimes get lucky and open the door and it takes you places; however, if you flip that around and spend time to understand the door better, making the key becomes a lot easier. So, love the problem, not the solution.

Thomas Hartmann: Alright, let’s get beyond the book. You are here in Germany, and the culture is a little bit different as you know, particularly toward entrepreneurship. In Germany is afraid about failure and nobody talks about failure. I wonder whether you can lead by example, share your biggest failure in entrepreneurship, to help these folks overcome that fear.

Ash Maurya: Let me get into how to sidestep the problem entirely and remove failure from the vocabulary.

A lot of people say fail fast and embrace failure. I just think that we as humans do not like failure. I like this quote from a  scientist called, Buckminster Fuller, and he said, “there is no such thing as a failed experiment, only unexpected outcomes.” I think that if we think in that manner and if we look at our jobs as entrepreneurs, we try to build a model that is an approximation of a business model. We use that model to make predictions, and then we run experiments. If you get failure, do not call it failure—call it an unexpected outcome. Then, you are trying to find out how we can change the model so that we can actually get better results.

The last piece is, of course, the cycle plan. If you can make those corrections very quickly, say in two-week sprints instead of doing so in three months, six months, or nine months, it is no longer even a failure—it is just learning. It just becomes a continuous process, which is what I like about it. So, when you go fast and learn and change the model, instead of describing it as failures, we describe it as continuous innovation.

Thomas Hartmann: About 10 years ago, we started this journey of applying the lean principles with one big goal in mind—it is to reduce the rate of failure. Looking back, how far have we come? Have we been able to change something with this methodology?

Ash Maurya: I actually found the failure rates going up and not down from my experience. Before you all run out of the room and say, “What is this guy talking about?”, I will explain.

We have actually found that a lot of teams really start out with not very good ideas to begin with. There are ideas in which we see that special something, and we march toward building a solution or testing that solution. The reality is that good ideas are just rare and hard to find. What this process does is that it does not necessarily guarantee success—there is no such thing. We do not have a silver bullet, or Eric or Steve or I would not be openly sharing it; we would be running our own accelerators and pumping our own kind of start-ups.

There is no silver bullet out there, but what this method is very good at is: telling you whether your idea is good or bad very, very quickly. There is a different metric, and to me, it is the cycle of time. What really bothered me was not my success or failure rate, it was that I was spending 18 to 24 months to figure out if the idea works. Now, I can do that sometimes in six to eight weeks. We can quickly tell whether this is an idea that we are pursuing. You do the business model; you do the traction roadmap; you do the validation; and you can tell: should I spend three years of my life on this?

We have put a lot of teams through boot camps where we bring them in with their ideas, and as I said, anecdotally I find that most of those ideas are pivoted or reset not because the teams give up but because they realize this will not work right now.

So, I am optimistic. I think that it is still early days, but I think that there is a long game and a short game. In the short game, I believe that we are going to see more failure, or if you do not want to use that term, unexpected outcomes. You are going to find more ideas getting reset or pivoted, but what we are building on is our better thinking process. We are building better entrepreneurs. Over the long run, the second, third, or fourth idea is really going to build a much more solid foundation. In the long run, you should see more success.

Thomas Hartmann: Ten years is actually quite young, methodologically. Running Leanwas about funding and problem-solving. Scaling Leanhelped the process of scaling. So, what is next step? Which questions and topics are currently on your mind that you think need more attention?

Ash Maurya: In some ways, it is actually going back to the basics. I find that it goes back to the hashtag “Love the Problem.” I am interested in trying to find more effective ways of finding problems to solve, and somehow, even revisiting the interviewing techniques that I described in the first book and coming up with some better approaches. I heard that somebody in the audience talking about Jobs-to-be-Done theory. That is something that I have been digging into quite a bit. That, and some of the design thinking techniques, and then trying to find an intersection there where we can use some of those approaches to really find real problems that we are solving and not fool ourselves. That, to me, is where I feel there is a lot of work.

Thomas Hartmann: We heard from Jobs-to-be-Done, and I think it is a little bit of a trend. How would you actually define Jobs-to-be-Done for yourself?

Ash Maurya: That is an interesting question. It got introduced to it with the milkshake study, which many people may have read about. I think that it is very interesting, but it was not until Bob Moesta, was actually one of the researchers in the milkshake study, approached me and said, “You know, I really think that you should look at this more carefully, and I really want to talk to you because you have a way of looking at things that are hard to explain and because somehow, over the years, you have helped to make it easier to understand.” So, I asked him to define what a job was and he could not do it. And he said, “I struggled with that because I tried to define a job and people do not get it.” I have gone to other people; I have looked at the definition; and I have looked at all of our leaders in the space—they do not agree on what a job really is, but we can see it when we explain it. I find that it is an elusive term, but it really exists for me at the end of the day. It is the reason that makes people switch from one product to the other. There are attributes of a product that we buy a product for, and it can sometimes be unexpected things.

In the milkshake study, for instance, a lot of people were buying milkshakes because they were on their way to work. They did not have time to eat a proper breakfast, so they wanted to eat while driving. And when you are eating while driving, getting a bagel and cream cheese or doughnuts are all bad ideas, you can almost get into an accident. So that is why the job of getting fed while you are driving at 100 kilometers an hour you need to have something that is portable. So, that is at a high level, but so are a lot of details. And I am covering that story. I am covering what a job is; what the triggers are; what some of the problems are that people run into with the existing alternatives and then how they find a better solution that can favor the present situation. I call it the innovator’s gift. So, I talk a lot about how the innovator is biased in those books, and that is the innovator falling in love with a solution. But the innovator’s gift is really going out of the building and studying other solutions out there because every solution fits all our problems, and if you can do better than what is out there, you can create the switching back or beginning. That is a little bit about the area that I am researching in my kind of analysis of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory.

Thomas Hartmann: Do you distinguish between the job itself, the situation, and the customer?

Ash Maurya: Yes, it definitely is very situational. With the kind of characteristics, a lot of people use the persona mindset, so it is a lot about how we can identify who the customer is, but I find identifying when the customer needs something more actionable. For me, the job is really a customer journey. If I am hungry, I am in a hurry, and I am on my way to work, what I am going to buy is going to be very different than the scenario in which I am on my anniversary date with my wife and we wanted to have a nice dinner, right? So, the circumstances are the same—I am hungry—and I am still the same person, but all of a sudden, the circumstances change my solution set. For me, it is a combination of all those things. So, we have a new canvas, it is called the Customer Forces Canvas. I have written some blogs about that, and you can kind of dive in and see what that looks like. But you will see that it is very much a “when something happens”: when a trigger is in someone’s mind. I get on a weighing machine, and I realize after the holidays that I am 10 kilograms heavier than I was three months ago. That was not something that happened instantaneously, but that creates a trigger. Now, all of a sudden, I become a potential customer looking for a solution. I want to lose that weight, and so I might be more open to joining a gym, going on a diet, or taking pills. That did not occur five minutes ago, but that triggering event to me is very, very actionable. Knowing when that happens is, to me, much more actionable than knowing who it is because the person is the same but understanding the “when” is very critical.

Thomas Hartmann: You mentioned persona, and that is really interesting. Intercom recently claimed in a talk the Persona to be dead because Job-to-be-Done defines your segmentation, not the persona. I wonder, what is your take on that thought?

Ash Maurya: Sure. I find that the labels are always misleading in some way or the other, so I would not say personas are dead but that people sometimes go overboard when employing personas. Typically, a persona is as follows: ”Let us define a character, let us give this character a name, and let us create an identity and start to put a lot of attributes in there.” You know, coming from a lean mindset, the more actionable thing is not hundreds of attributes but the smallest attribute set that you can use to identify your customer. So, for me, it is about “less is more.” If I can just come up with three characteristics, that is all I would need. And typically, there are triggers, so there is psychographics as well as demographics. The only thing that I talk about is a photo-sharing app. I was initially going after busy parents with young kids, but after a few conversations, I actually learned that the triggering event was really a first-time mom having a child and it was like night and day. If I went and talked to a first-time mom and she had a new baby, I could probably see that the activity of sharing or taking baby pictures and wanting to share them with family members was going to be disproportionately higher than that with anyone else. That could be the triggering event. There is some element of gender in there, but there are things such as age or giving that character a lot of attributes that matter. Really, it was that first-time mom with the child.

Thomas Hartmann: One more question. You told us about the entrepreneur’s gift. In my personal experience entrepreneurs always have what I call “solution gravity”. People always want to go over to the solution. How do you make entrepreneurs go deep into the problem and not jump over to the solution early on?

Ash Maurya: Yes, totally true. From a coaching perspective, that is actually my new challenge. People ask me, “What is the hardest thing that you are working on?” A lot of it is trying to change that mindset and trying to get people to recognize that they are being half as biased, and it takes time. Sometimes, it is a bit like dual strategy. When people come in and they are very passionate about the solution, rather than letting them finish it or build it, we try to design and experiment where they, in their mind they can see the solution side. That could be a demonstration, a lighting page, or something similar. You want to create that opening. At other times, it can be something that you can rationalize—where you can talk about problems being part of it.

It really is a function of who you are dealing with and what their situation is. But I find that the opening begins to be created when they find evidence of problems and it does not match their understanding of what they are really building. It is very specific to who we are dealing with and knowing what to use and when with this type of people.

About Ash Maurya

Ash is one of the very early adopter and thought leader of applied lean startup methods. He is the author of best selling books like Running Lean and Scaling Lean.

Running Lean was the first book which took the ideas for „The Lean Startup“ book from Eric Ries and translated it into step-by-step blueprint.

Scaling Lean is his recent book where he helps entrepreneurs to find the right metrics to track progress in the early days.

He is also the creator of the Lean Canvas, a widely known version of the Business Model Canvas specifically designed for startups. With his company LEANSTACK he helps companies create continuous innovation.

With his work, he impacted the work of thousands of entrepreneurs and companies for the better. He is one of the heroes of the lean startup movement and we had the chance to have a interview with him at the Lean Startup Meetup Munich.

Special thanks to Boris Danne and AutoScout24 for hosting this event.

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Become a customer centric product manager with this single rule! Fri, 16 Mar 2018 17:45:42 +0000 Asking customers about the features they require mostly leads to bad product performance and is not the way to go to become a customer centric product manager or company. David J Bland’s infamous „Product Death Cycle” illustrates precisely this issue. Many people quote Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” suggesting that you should not listen to your customers. In contrast, Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Customer Development, and other innovation methods suggest that you do exactly this – talk and listen to your customers. While that sounds like a paradox, this article aims to help you decide which customer feedback to consider and which one to filter out.

Circle of Competence

To explain which feedback to consider and which to neglect, adopt the “circle of competence,” which was made famous by star investor Warren Buffet. He only invested in stocks he thoroughly understood and calls that his “circle of competence”.

circle of competence product manager

But how does that apply to product management? We consider both the customer and the product manager to have their own circles of competence. The customer’s circle of competence is the problem space, while the product manager’s circle of competence is the solution space. It sounds trivial but has huge impact!

Junior product managers, in specific, tend to think that the customer should perfectly know what they actually need. However, when companies build what customers ask for, they are rarely delighted. Here is the problem: the customer is NOT the product expert. He generally does not know about the newest technology available and is not perfectly informed about the possibilities and needs of peers. The customer is only the “problem owner”! Hence the circle of competence of your target customer is the problem space and not the solution space.

For you, as a product manager, this means that you can ask the customer anything about his problem and therefore, ensure that you are building something suited to the needs of the customer. Questions such as the following are appropriate:

  • How is the customer treating the problem today?
  • Which solutions is the customer using today?
  • Why is he using that exact solution?
  • Why does the solution still suck if he is looking for alternatives?

Any question about the problem will help a product manager understand the context and craft a better product for the customer.

A customer centric product manager’s job

You, as a product manager, are responsible to combine your learnings about the problem with your knowledge about technology, as well as creativity and craft a solution. Since you are not certain if your idea will work with the customer, you take it as early and as often to your target audience in order to verify that you are on track. This is how great products are created. If it would only require asking customers what to build and execute based on that input, it would be really. Some people think that is the job of a product manager, but it is not!

Luckily, it is not only about executing the customers wish list. The search and discovery of a product is as hard and time consuming as the execution itself. Nonetheless, most companies and product managers treat product development as an execution game and treat the feature wish list of customers as their requirement document. Good luck with that! This is a very common reason for failing products.

Scratch your own itches

If you have this picture in mind, it makes complete sense to scratch your own itch. In essence, this approach ensures that you are the problem expert. In fact, in this case, the expert of the problem and expert of the product align with each other! There is still a key catch in this scenario – are there sufficient people out there with the same issue?


A product cannot simply be defined by asking customers what to build. Otherwise, a customer survey would replace many product manager’s job. You, as a product manager, need to understand what problem the customer wants you to solve. What issues does he face as a user of the current solutions and what outcomes would he like to achieve? This knowledge blended with technology and creativity will enable you to WOW your customer.

Here’s what works best for me:

Listen to the customer if he is talking about the problem don't listen if he is talking about the solution

Now you know which customer input to listen to the which input you should discard. The only thing remaining now is to get out of the building and actually talk to your customers! 😉

Get a customer development pocket guide

Some time ago, we created a interview guide to help customers and founders make better interviews and succeed with their products. It fits in any pocket and is the perfect companion. Check it out and get yours for free here.

If you want to know how we apply this knowledge with corporates and startups alike, get in touch with me at

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Von Weihnachtskarten, Schneeflocken und Lean Startup Mon, 05 Dec 2016 21:06:36 +0000 Ganz ehrlich, 2016 hat einen schlechten Ruf. Die Welt verändert sich – das tut sie zwar immer, aber dieses Jahr hat eine eigene Wirkung gezeigt. #Postfaktisch ist das Wort des Jahres geworden und für uns umso mehr ein Anlass, Daten und Fakten bei unserer Arbeit weiter in den Vordergrund zu stellen.

So haben wir dieses Jahr auch für die Weihnachtskarte Verbindungen zu unserer Arbeit gesucht. Die Idee mit der Schneeflocke haben wir sofort geliebt, dahinter haben wir ein Gleichnis gefunden, das in direktem Zusammenhang mit unserer Arbeit steht. Diese Geschichte wollen wir gern erzählen. Doch vorher gibt es noch eine Herausforderung, nämlich eine ungeklärte Annahme:

Wird überhaupt jemand einen Link öffnen, der auf der Rückseite einer Weihnachtskarte aufgedruckt ist?

Dies gilt es zu testen – denn sonst ist der gesamte Blogpost umsonst.

Wenn Sie diesen Blogpost hier jetzt also lesen – bitte kommen sie in den nächsten Tagen noch einmal zurück. Denn wenn wir 10 Aufrufe haben, dann schreiben wir den Rest. Schließlich will es ja sonst gar niemand lesen 😉

(fortgesetzt 2017)

Wir freuen uns! Unser Blogpost hat viel schneller seine Leser bekommen, als wir es erwartet hatten. Denn tatsächlich war eine Hypothese „Niemand tippt händisch den Link ein.“ Statt dessen haben wir uns über eine kleine zweistellige Conversion freuen dürfen. Deshalb nun zur ganzen Geschichte…

Zum Ende des vergangenen Jahres haben wir uns in die Schneeflocke verliebt. Wenn viele Schneeflocken um uns fallen und es kalt genug ist, wird draußen alles weiß. Uniform weiß. Bei blauem Himmel und strahlender Sonne erscheint die Welt um uns herum als sanfte, verzauberte Landschaft im weißen Glanz. Wenn wir vom großen Ganzen in die mikroskopischen Feinheiten zoomen, können wir feststellen, dass diese Wunderwelt auf unzähligen einzelnen Kristallen beruht. Und während sich die Kristalle im Aufbau ähneln, sind sie dennoch individuell. Sie alle haben ein Zentrum, haben Arme, aber jeder ist doch eigen.

Bei diesen Überlegungen ist uns die Ähnlichkeit zu beweglichen Strukturen in Unternehmen aufgefallen. In modernen Unternehmen finden wir es ebenfalls wieder, dass Einheiten – z.B. Innovations-Teams – sehr individuell wirken können, aber leichter interagieren und als Ganzes besser wirken, wenn einige Prinzipien sich in allen Teams wiederfinden. Ein Prinzip, das wir in den letzten Jahren zunehmend erfolgreich gedeihen sehen, ist die Kultur des Lernens durch Validierung und datengetriebenes Arbeiten.

Stellen Sie sich ein Management Team vor, in dem eine Preisänderung diskutiert wird. In klassischen Modellen sehen wir hier oft, dass Entscheidungen auf politischem Wege durch Hierarchie oder Gruppenbildung gefällt werden. Es wird viel diskutiert! Die Absicht ist meist absolut positiv – jeder Akteur in der Organisation, dem die Entscheidung wichtig ist, setzt sich nach bestem Wissen und Gewissen ein. Jeder versucht der eigenen Verantwortung gerecht zu werden und das durchzusetzen, das auf Basis der eigenen Erfahrung richtig erscheint. Die Zweifler versuchen die Katastrophe zu verhindern. Die Visionäre verstehen nicht, warum der Durchbruch verhindert werden soll. Für Beobachter (die entweder nicht an der Entscheidung beteiligt sind oder den zu erwartenden Entscheidungen neutral gegenüberstehen) erscheint dies als Zankerei oder Ränkespiel. Gelingt es, in einem Team diesen Baustein zu drehen und eine Kultur des Testens zu motivieren, ändert sich das Modell: Management und Teams haben verstanden, dass es einen anderen Weg gibt, als _die_ Entscheidung zu fällen. Statt richtig und falsch einer Entscheidung vorher zu diskutieren, wird die Aufgabenstellung variiert und nach einem Weg gesucht, die Auswirkungen der Entscheidungen durch ein Experiment oder mehrere vorab zu testen und besser zu verstehen. Denn am Ende entscheiden die eigenen Kunden. Und die folgen nicht der Logik der Anbieter, sondern fällen ihre eigenen Entscheidungen.

Gelingt diese Transformation, können sich alle Entscheidungsträger darauf konzentrieren, die richtigen Fragen zu stellen um die eigenen Potenziale zu erschließen. Die Antworten gibt dann das Verhalten der Kunden in den jeweiligen Tests und Experimenten.

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Lean Startup für Alle! 4 Jahre Lean Startup Machine München Thu, 13 Aug 2015 22:39:08 +0000 Vier Tage sind seit dem Wochenende und der letzten Lean Startup Machine München 2015 vergangen – und auch für uns als Organisatoren war es ein tolles Erlebnis. Nachdem wir schon die Posts von Mentoren und Teilnehmern lesen durften, sind auch bei uns einige Gedanken aufgekommen.

Das Konzept

Seit 2012 führen wir Lean Startup Machine München mit ebenso großer Vorfreude in unserem Jahreskalender wie das Oktoberfest. Als Mentor beim ersten Event hat uns das Format gleich begeistert! „Get out of the building“ zum Leben erweckt: Landing Pages? Unbedingt, aber später! Prototypen testen? Ja, nur bloß nicht zuerst! Um maximales Lernen mit dem geringsten Aufwand zu schaffen, ist das erste Experiment bei Lean Startup Machine ein Interview, das die „Customer-Problem“ Hypothese überprüfen soll. Vereinfacht gesagt, müssen die Teilnehmer formulieren wer ihre Kunden sind, und warum diese an ihrem neuen Angebot interessiert sein werden, ohne das Angebot zu erwähnen. Tatsächlich ist dies ein wesentlicher Kernpunkt von Innovation: Wer nicht weiß, wer die eigenen Kunden sein werden und welcher Bedarf sie zur eigenen Lösung bewegt, der kann weder sein Produkt auf diese Kunden abstimmen, noch erfolgreich den Vertrieb skalieren.

Innovation für Alle!

Eine bemerkenswerte Besonderheit von Lean Startup Machine liegt im Veranstaltungsformat. An einem Wochenende werden Teilnehmer aus allen möglichen Herkunftsgruppen in einen teilweise atemberaubenden kooperativen Wettbewerb gebracht, während gleichzeitig wesentliche Konzepte von Lean Startup für jedermann verständlich vermittelt werden. Die Teilnehmer sind grundverschieden – es finden sich Studenten, Startups, Professionals aus Produkt und Marketing, Führungskräfte und Unternehmer genauso wie ausgebildete Physiotherapeuten, Musiker oder Handwerker. Sie alle eint, dass sie eine eigene Idee haben oder gemeinsam mit anderen Ideen verwirklichen möchten. So ist die Veranstaltung denn auch ein hybrides Wesen: Ein Wettbewerb, ein Event und ein Seminar aber auch ein Härtetest für Ideen, Kreativität und Ausdauer der Teilnehmer.

Stop Discussing, Start Testing!

Seit 2012 sehen wir nach dem Wochenende folgendes Bild: Ein paar Teilnehmer haben aufgegeben und ein oder zwei Teams halten alles für Unfug. Aber die große Mehrheit der Teilnehmer hat eine neue Sichtweise darauf bekommen, wie man mit Ideen umgehen sollte und verlassen dieses Wochenende mit veränderter Denkweise. Die Kernerkenntnis ist meist so etwas wie: „Irgendwann hörten wir endlich auf zu diskutieren und merkten, dass wir selbst mit einfachen Methoden sehr schnell mit Kunden lernen konnten, was wirklich wichtig ist.“

Vier Jahre Evolution mit #leanmunich – Mia san lean!

Seit dem ersten Event in 2012 hat sich Lean Startup Machine in München qualitativ kontinuierlich weiterentwickelt. Durch die durchgängige gegenseitige Befruchtung von Lean Startup MACHINE und Lean Startup MEETUP in München haben sich beide Veranstaltungen bereichert: Gewinner des LSM Wochenendes referieren auf dem Meetup, interessierte Meetup-Mitglieder können die Methode am Machine-Wochenende mal so richtig ausprobieren und die erfahrenen Anwender aus der Meetup-Gruppe bilden inzwischen eine Mentoren-Gruppe, deren fachliche Qualität die Veranstaltung weiter aufgewertet hat.

Das Engagement der Mentoren ist dabei besonders bemerkenswert, weil diese ihre Tätigkeit unentgeltlich wahrnehmen. Aufgrund des unausgereiften Partnermodells des New Yorker Lizenzgebers gilt dies übrigens ähnlich auch für uns Organisatoren.

Bereits 2012 haben wir Lean Startup Machine damit überrascht, wie schnell wir uns als Mentoren in das Konzept eingefühlt und es weitergetrieben haben. Ein Mentor, der einfach mit dem Team auf die Straße geht, um es perfekt zu coachen? Damals verrückt, jetzt eine akzeptierte LSM-Best Practice.

Besonderheiten 2015

Die Location bei Payback war großartig! So viel Platz hatten wir noch nie und vielleicht war das auch der Platz für Ideen – denn die Zahl der Pitches war schier endlos. Hut ab, Jahrgang 2015!

Der perfekte Lean Startup Workshop?

Bei so viel positiven Äußerungen zwingt sich die Frage auf: Ist es der perfekte Lean Startup Workshop? Für den Anfänger auf jeden Fall. Aber es ist erst der Einstieg und auch nur der Einstieg. Wie jedes Angebot ist auch dieses Lean Startup Angebot im Verhältnis zur Zielgruppe zu bewerten. Und dieser Event ist ein Event für den „Breitensport“, wenn ich das so formulieren darf. Seine Effektivität liegt in der Vereinfachung, die es ermöglicht, dass eine so breite Zielgruppe angesprochen werden kann. Für den längerfristigen Einsatz reicht die Methodik über das Wochenende jedoch nicht aus.

Beispielhaft dafür möchte ich vier Punkte nennen:

  1. Manches ist zu stark vereinfacht. Die Kundengruppe und deren Motiv müssen in je einem Post-It auf den Punkt gebracht werden. Für den ersten Schritt eines Teams reicht dieser Ansatz aus. In der weiteren Arbeit müssen das Segment und sein Motive letztlich differenzierter betrachtet werden.
  2. Lean Startup Machine fördert eine gewisse Wegwerfmentalität. Wer bei zwei Experimenten in Folge scheitert, hat am Wochenende einen hohen Druck, opportunistisch verfrüht in eine andere Richtung zu wechseln. Ausdauer wird tendenziell bestraft, was in realen Situationen wesentliche Chancen für Innovation verbaut.
  3. Die Fachvorträge werden zu festen Zeitpunkten gehalten und können sich nicht am Tempo oder besonderer Situationen der Teams orientieren. Wer seine Kundengruppe also etwas mühsamer erreicht, verliert schnell den Anschluss.
  4. Das Wochenende zeigt nur die allererste Phase der Ideenprüfung. Tatsächlich geht es Lean Startup aber darum, funktionierende Geschäftsmodell zu identifizieren und systematisch auszubauen. Dieser Teil wird vom Wochenende gar nicht abgedeckt.

Wer also von Lean Startup Machine mit dem „Lean Virus“ infiziert wurde, dem empfehle ich auf jeden Fall, sich weiter in den Kaninchenbau hinein zu begeben. Sei es durch Fachliteratur (seid vorsichtig mit deutschen Übersetzungen), Teilnahme an lokalen Treffen wie dem Lean Startup Meetup München oder im Idealfall durch Trainings und Coachings von erfahrenen Anwendern.

Welchen Weg Ihr auch immer wählt – wir wünschen Euch eine spannende Reise und viel Freude mit hoffentlich messbar besseren Resultaten.

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3 Takeaways als Mentor bei Lean Startup-Machine Mon, 01 Sep 2014 09:02:56 +0000 Anfang August fand in der Münchner WAYRA Academy erneut einer meiner liebsten Startup Events in München statt: Lean Startup Machine. In einer erneut unglaublich inspirierenden Atmosphäre, validierten über 100 energiegeladene Teilnehmer das Wochenende über unterschiedlichste Businessideen. Neben Startup-Willigen fanden sich unter den Aktiven schon einige erfolgreiche Jungunternehmer (z.B. ein 23 jähriger Gründer mit 10+ Angestellten) wie auch Professionals von Software-Entwicklern über Produktmanager bis hin zu Geschäftsführern etablierter Unternehmen mit über 100 Mitarbeitern. Für mich als Mentor war es besonders interessant die unterschiedlichen Dynamiken und Herangehensweisen der Teams im Verlaufe des Wochenendes zu verfolgen.

Drei Dinge sind mir dabei an diesem Wochenende besonders aufgefallen:

Flexibilität gewinnt

Der wichtigste Faktor für ein erfolgreiches Wochenende für die Teams war: Aufgeschlossenheit für Veränderung bzw. die Akzeptanz für die Realität. Insbesondere den Ideengebern musste es gelingen, eine gewisse Distanz und Neutralität zu ihren Idee zu wahren. Am Ende des Wochenendes lagen die Teams mit den fixiertesten Ideengebern hinten. Sie hatten nicht nur die geringsten Fortschritte bei der Weiterentwicklung ihrer Idee gemacht, sondern hatten auch bedeutend weniger über ihre Kunden und ihr Produkt gelernt.

Einige Gruppen konnten sich nicht von ihrer Idee losreissen und versuchten ausdauernd, das passende Problem zu einer fixierten Lösung zu finden. Die Idee konnte sich nicht entwickeln. Es war erstaunlich, wie sehr die flexiblen Team die unflexiblen in Kundenverständnis und Produktanforderungen abhängten.

Es ist nie zu spät

Besonders beeindruckt hat mich ein Team, das als Startup vorher bereits viele Monate an Ihrer Idee gearbeitet hatte. Ein „Kernteam“ des Startups wollte mittels Lean Startup herausfinden,

warum das bisherige Businessmodel nicht funktionierte. Die durchgeführten Experimente konfrontierten das Team in kürzester Zeit mit der Realität. Schon ihre ersten Interviews auf Basis des bestehenden Geschäftsmodells wurde invalidiert. Der Prozess zwang das Team, die Idee mit neuen Experimenten zu variieren. Und schon nach wenigen Iterationen fanden sie einen vielversprechenden Ausweg aus ihrem Dilemma. Das Team beendet das Wochenendes schließlich mit dem Fazit, dass sie nun in einem Wochenende mehr gelernt hatten, als in der gesamten Zeit davor. Beeindruckend!

„Get out of the Building“

Jeder der Teilnehmer hat es vor dem Wochenende schon gelesen – es zu erfahren verändert die Teilnehmer. Sie alle erkennen, weit weniger mit ihren Kunden persönlich zu reden, als sie es sollten. Stattdessen arbeiten sie an einer schönen Präsentation oder anderen scheinbar wichtigere Themen. In diesen drei Tagen waren alle Teams erstaunt, wie viel sie über ihre Kunden und Märkte in der kurzen Zeit gelernt haben. Wie schnell sie Geschäftsmodelle verworfen, geändert, invalidiert oder validiert haben. Einige Teams landeten am Ende des Tages mit einer Idee, die nichts mit dem ursprünglichen Geschäftsmodell zu tun hatte, aber viel mehr Interesse bei den Kunden zeigte. Junge Ideen brauchen viele Kundengespräche und die richtige Methodik – das war an diesem Wochenende wieder klar zu erleben.


Das Wochenende war außerordentlich energiegeladen, inspirierend, voller interessanter Konversationen mit ambitionierten Menschen. Es herrschte eine Atmosphäre, die am Ende des Wochenendes alle Teilnehmer ein großes Lächeln auf ihr Gesicht malte.

Manche Teilnehmer haben am Montagmorgen den Song des Wochenendes auf Youtube gesucht, um die Energie wieder zu spüren. Ander Teilnehmer haben am Montag zu Ihrem Telefon gegriffen, um Ihre Idee zu testen. Was mehr kann ich mir als Mentor wünschen?

Das meist genutzte Wort des Wochenendes fasst das Event sehr gut zusammen: AWESOME 😉

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Getting started with Customer Interviews Wed, 30 Jul 2014 06:48:09 +0000

Customer interviews are one of the greatest sources of learning about your customer in a fast way. Unfortunately it is not easy to ask the right questions and crucial to know how to talk to customers. In this post we take a look at why interviews are important and what to look for. We’ll check into all the other important parts of interviews in separate posts later. Let us know if you have specific problem we should address next 🙂

Why not just ask customers what they want?

Well, in fact it depends a lot on the way you frame your questions. People may tell you what they want, but it may finally not be what makes them happy and what they’ll actually use. Just remember that 4 out of 5 gym members go unused. The dominant way of the food industry to understand what customers want traditionally hab been to ask customer in surveys that easily can scale. For 20 or 30 years they arranged focus groups and asked them questions like: „How can we improve our spaghetti sauce?“. In all those years, not a single survey resulted in making the sauce „chunky“. Howard Moskowitz – whom you may know as the reinventor of the spaghetti sauce – approached the issue differently and simply tested the market with different spaghetti sauces. He found out, that actually 30% of the population preferred extra chunky spaghetti sauce despite the fact, that not a single participant of the focus groups ever expressed that. When Prego reformulated their sauce, they took over the market with a huge success. As Howard loves to say, „The mind knows not what the tongue wants.“ Watch this inspiring TED talk for the whole story. This is already pretty cool. But it’s also a case of trial and error and does not provide guidance to better solutions. There are plenty of other similar stories out there. Just Google „faster horses“ and you will discover another one like this. You also likely may know a popular quote by Steve Jobs: „people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.“ So, just building what Customers want may be futile – that’s why you shouldn’t them for the solution. Instead, try to focus on the job that needs to be solved. Watch this amazing talk by Clayton Christiansen to learn about how to get better access to solution ideation. Summing it up – before investing into building a solution, make sure that you understood the job you are solving and for whom.

Get your pocket guide to get started!

After running Customer Interviews for several years, we have summed up our own pro tips with the best practices we found from customer development experts world wide. So we’re proud to present our straight forward pocket guide. And you have a chance to get one! Submit the form below and share why you want one and we’ll send it to you by mail. Credits go to @robfitz for his amazing book The Mom Test and to Justin Wilcox and @CustomerDevLabs for his awesome interview template format. Don’t hesitate – watch Justin’s videos and buy Rob’s book. Seriously!

Would you like one of our Customer Interview Pocket Guides? Send us an email to with you’re shipping details and how many pocket guides you like to get.

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Lean Startup Machine Munich 1-3 August 2014 Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:35:57 +0000

Wir sind dieses Jahr Medienpartner der Lean Startup Machine. LSM ist ein Event an dem jeder die Prinzipien des Lean Startup in der Praxis lernen kann und seine Geschäftsidee in nur 3 Tagen testet. Hier die Key Facts im Überblick:

Was ist Lean Startup Machine?

Lean Startup Machine ist das beste uns bekannte Event-Format, bei dem die Lean Startup Methode an einem Wochenende von den Teilnehmern erlebt und dadurch ein gutes Grundwissen vermittelt wird.

Was ist das Problem, das durch LSM adressiert wird?

95% aller Startups scheitern, weil ihre Angebot am Markt nicht angenommen werden. Im Corporate-Bereich legen die Unternehmen ihre Zahlen nicht offen, aus unserem Netzwerk wissen wir aber, dass die Quoten vergleichbar sind.

Was ist Lean Startup?

Lean Startup ist eine Methode, bei der die eigene Geschäfts- oder Produktidee systematisch am Markt getestet wird, um frühzeitig Fehlannahmen zu Verhalten und Bedürfnissen des Kunden zu identifizieren. So ist es möglich, die Ausgestaltung gezielt an die Marktrealität anzupassen bzw. Sackgassen frühzeitig zu erkennen.

Wie funktioniert es?

Tickets kaufen auf

Prima. Wir sehen uns dann dort!

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