A Review of “The Leader's Guide” by Eric Ries and Some Thoughts on Entrepreneurial Management

06/19/2016 08:03 pm ET

Today I received The Leader’s Guide To Adopting Lean Startup At Scale. Eric Ries’s latest book. If you haven’t read The Lean Startup head to Amazon and pick that one up as well. It’s a necessary compliment.

I had the distinct pleasure of working pretty closely with Eric during the early days of the Lean Startup journey - back when it was originally just him and his blog, Startup Lessons Learned. Eric was a fantastic investor and mentor during the early days of building my first startup, Rally.org.

Most recently, I did an interview with him on Campaigns As Startups for the new Podcast I’ve been working on called Tech on Politics. My first experiment in the world of Media and Entertainment. In a nutshell, the episode covers how politicians and political parties can look to lean startup methodology to find asymmetric advantage to winning political campaigns and driving change at the institutional level. Subscribe here to listen and we’ll let you know when we finally get around to releasing it.

I started reading Eric’s new book today and early on he dives pretty deep into this concept of Entrepreneurial Management. In essence, it’s a toolkit and guide for founders and managers looking to leverage lean startup for transformation of their organizations and businesses.

I’ve now been gone from my first startup for almost a couple years. A tremendous ride that I would encourage all to attempt at least once in their life. Over the last year or so I’ve been working at Boston Consulting Group - attempting to get my MBA centered on nurturing the intersection of Startups, Fortune 500, and Corporate Development. Needless to say, it’s been an interesting journey thus far.

In my previous article, All Good Entrepreneurs Are Just a Little Naughty, I closed with the idea that today’s visionary Fortune 500 CEO’s need to create space for mavericks to succeed, thereby creating the moments of opportunity that drive long-term innovation for the firm.  At BCG we’re constantly working with Executives who are diligently crafting their strategies for Digital Transformation and in many ways this requires a degree of Entrepreneurial Management, Experimentation, and Embracing the Maverick.

Eric makes a couple great points early on that I’d like to share:

1. If you’re succeeding in business, you are always sowing the seeds of your own destruction, and therefore you always have to be reinventing yourself to stay relevant. It’s a perpetual challenge that all firms face.

I can clearly remember the early days of Rally, and being one of the first to market with a crowdfunding product - and achieving a great deal of success in executing around our vision to help political and non-profit merchants raise large sums of money online.

As the years went by and more startups began to enter the crowdfunding market - Frankly, at one point, it seemed like there was a crowdfunding product for just about anything you could think of - our success began to become less certain. We had to constantly try and find ways to reinvent ourselves with the ever shifting and morphing landscape. Remaining relevant, certainly a challenge that all firms face, big or small.

2. Every organization that wants to practice continuous innovation is also going to be practicing continuous transformation

The perpetual challenge of digital transformation and continuous innovation is inherently driven by the maverick CEO that embraces Entrepreneurial Management. We hear the buzzwords thrown around all the time, you know them “Pivot” “MVP”...etc. But what does all the nonsense really mean? If I had a quarter every time I heard these words….

It means experimentation, hypothesis testing, and an attitude of launching sooner rather than later to see if your beliefs about the future are true or not. One of the things Eric and I discussed in our upcoming interview was how the firm needs to think like a scientist - testing our assumptions early and often. Something that I’ve discovered corporates probably have the most difficult time dealing with. Most of them spend an enormous amount of time researching, designing, making 90 page pitch decks, and...then having a meeting around when they should start working on their MVP. Short answer, you should have launched something yesterday.

Startups aren’t cookie cutters. Sure we’ve seen the success of firms like Rocket Internet that have created a process around looking to established firms on the verge of impressive growth - copying them with unbelievable perfection and then launching in distant markets to acquire market share - awaiting for future acquisition opportunities. But let’s face it, innovation itself isn’t cookie cutter. In most cases it feels messy and chaotic. Uncertainty is the key element of building a startup. So let’s build a process around embracing uncertainty and testing early, faster, and bear hugging a sooner rather than later mentality.

As I look down the road and imagine how corporates and startups will work more closely together - either through more clearly defined partnerships or corporate development - one thing is certain, bringing an experimentation process to digital transformation, breeding an entrepreneurial culture through proper incentives in the system - such that mavericks can emerge - are critical for many of these firms to embrace continuous innovation.

Let’s face the truth - there’s no magic formula or “The Way”, but certainly our client’s have real leadership opportunities around breeding Entrepreneurial Management as a form of leadership and culture to enhance long-term success of the firm - and drive towards continuous transformation.

I’m only just now diving into Eric’s new book, but so far, I’m loving it. Adopting the lean startup at scale truly is a leadership opportunity for large firms looking for innovation.

Good luck on your journey.

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