The Yin and Yang of a LEAN Canvas
In business, simplicity is the key to almost everything, no matter what industry or position you’re in. Keeping things reduced to the minimum viable scope, whether that’s an actual product or something intangible like an idea or strategy, is essential to maintain focus and communicate effectively to stakeholders and observers. That means coming up with a concise plan you can easily convey to investors and early adopters or coming up with a compelling pitch to attract talent into your team.
You may have been reading about LEAN Startup methodology, watching the many instructional videos, playing around with Experiment Board, LEAN Canvas, Value Proposition Canvas, Business Model Canvas and numerous other tools. You might be joining Webinars, attending LEAN MeetUps & conferences, spending time with a mentor and generally receiving loads of advice. You could be trying to absorb the wisdom of gurus like Steve Blank and Eric Ries and you may have discovered brilliant people such as David Bland, Clay Christensen, Alistair Croll, Ash Maurya, Anita Newton, Grace Ng and Justin Wilcox.
If you are part of an Accelerator you may be following a rigorous LEAN program as well as participating in many Mentor advice sessions. And there is a fair chance that you are spending so much time immersed in all this LEAN Methodology content that you find yourself not making the kind of progress with your venture that you want and need to.
There is no disputing that LEAN Startup, in its purest form, is THE model for testing of new ideas. Doesn’t matter what the idea is in fact. An idea by its very definition is merely an opinion or belief, something you can imagine or perhaps just a suggestion. Your idea initially will almost always involve numerous assumptions and those assumptions could have lead you to form an hypothesis that your target market will react very positively to your idea.To have any value, the idea must be validated and tested in the harsh reality of daily life, i.e. with your prospective customers and not your college buddies and family. Invalid assumptions underpinning business ideas are the primary reason 9 out of 10 startups fail.
The flipside of every idea is of course the solution, hopefully built based on your in-depth work to, a) validate you are solving a problem people actually care about (SLACK) or, b) validate that you could change customer behavior by adding new and cool functionality to a ubiquitous technology (SnapChat).
Idea/Solution are the two fundamental aspects of LEAN that are at the core of getting value from the methodology. To initially adopt LEAN in its purest form, only two panels of the LEAN Canvas really matter, they are like the Yin and Yang of LEAN Startup, a kind of Minimum Viable Canvas©.
- The Yang — Validate the idea has a market (get out of the building and validate your riskiest assumptions), and
- The Yin — Validate that your proposed solution will be used and valued (demonstrate a UX, wireframe or MVP, propose your pricing and get a commitment to purchase)
So, in the spirit of keeping LEAN as LEAN as possible, keep it simple and focus on the YIN-YANG of LEAN until your riskiest assumptions are validated. When you can document the YIN-YANG LEAN Canvas and your prospective customers understand your idea and express excitement then go ahead and complete a full LEAN Canvas.
I’d be delighted to hear other views on my proposition that LEAN just isn’t LEAN enough.