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Yes, that’s a reference to Alice in Chains.
Disclaimer: In no way am I anti-lean/cust-dev/bmgen. I actually find them quite useful and rather practical at times. I don’t, however, buy into the the lean “movement” or any other trend brought about by these books and their authors. These are merely tools and I use them as such.
Anyhow, I’d like to share my thoughts on how entrepreneurs and the people that give them advice have the tendency to constrain themselves to a particular framework or methodology, simply known as a “box”. I see it more and more these days, especially since lean, customer development, and business model generation methodologies have hit the mainstream. I fear that entrepreneurs are jumping into these boxes and using them without actually thinking about whether they are suitable for their start-ups. They are limiting and labeling themselves as “lean” when entrepreneurs shouldn’t set limits or put labels on themselves. It seems like the lean movement has created a huge wave of “me too” entrepreneurs who just follow some steps in a book and that worries me. A lot of these entrepreneurs label their companies as “lean startups”. I, on the other hand, refuse to do this as something I create is much more than a particular tool that’s used in the process.
Here is what really bugs me. Advisors are blindly prescribing these methodologies when they don’t have a clue about the business they are trying to help. A few months back, I met with a pair of advisors who I had been matched with through a local non-profit that helps entrepreneurs Several weeks before the meeting, I was asked to submit a lengthy survey which contained details of the start-up I was working on. During the meeting the advisors did two things that had me scratching my head. First, neither of them actually read my file before coming to the meeting. Fine, maybe they were busy. That’s understandable. What’s not understandable, or acceptable for that matter, is that they then proceeded to tell me that the lean methodology is perfect for businesses like mine. You mean the business that you know next to nothing about? Unbelievable. Sure lean may have been helpful. I actually was using some of it at that time but that’s not the point. The point here is that people are surrendering their critical faculties and treating lean as some magical pill while prescribing it blindly.
So here’s my advice. Read the book, question everything, take what you think is useful, and thenthrow the book away. Your start-up is unique and if its aim is to make some sort of impact, which it should, it requires a unique approach. This approach should be a combination of experience, advice, careful observation, books, and so on. Entrepreneurs should have the vision and critical thinking skills to come up with their own strategies. You shouldn’t be asking whether or not your start-up is lean but whether or not lean is right for your start-up.
Don’t put yourself in a box and don’t let others put a label on you because you are an entrepreneur and you are more than just a tool that you use.
I’m starting a multi-post series that will dissect my passion for building and creating. Let’s start with the challenge.
People who know me well will tell you that I’ve got an affinity for seeking out tough and unusual tasks and obsessing over them until I complete them. I’ve always chosen the difficult path, especially when it involves having to do something yourself. There’s something inherently rewarding about doing something on your own. Model cars, Lego robotics, gaming PC’s, carpentry and woodworking (putting together IKEA furniture doesn’t scratch that itch anymore), growing my own vegetables, and now building web apps and businesses. This has been a consistent theme in my life and I feel like I’m just getting started.
But building stuff isn’t easy. It presents a wide variety of obstacles depending on the task at hand. In a challenging environment, you not only have to develop new abilities, but you also have to reflect upon your past experiences and apply them to be successful. Difficult and uncomfortable situations force you to grow and bring out the best in you. It allows you to think, analyze, be creative, design, and dream. This is how innovation occurs.
Building something with your bare hands is an immense opportunity for learning and that’s why I’m drawn to it. To me, the chance to not only grow as an individual but to have a considerable impact on your environment is worth both the time invested and the opportunity costs accumulated by choosing this path. So, I embrace these challenges because I know that I’ll have grown as a person when I’m done, and maybe the world will have grown too.
My name, as you can probably guess from the title of the blog, is Amar Chahal. I am a 22 year-old recent graduate from the University of Toronto with a HBSc in economics and human biology.
For the past 2 years I have had the pleasure of working on a handful of start-ups ranging from enterprise-level ad platforms to a social network for fitness buffs. The purpose of this blog is to share my thoughts and feelings on the experiences that I’ve had, the mistakes I’ve made, and what I’ve learned from it all.
In my spare time I train in the sport of olympic weightlifting (currently recovering from a torn meniscus) and enjoy the outdoors. I’ll be sharing some of this on occasion as well.
I hope you enjoy my blog and learn something from it. Your feedback is not only welcome but encouraged. If you think I’m wrong, call me out on it. We can all learn and grow from healthy discussion.
Ready. Set. GO!