“Hope is Not a Strategy” Q&A with Peter Shanley

March 27, 2014

11:00 am

If you are part of a startup, you probably consider Eric Ries’ Lean Startup your startup bible and its scientific principles, startup commandments. Principles of the Lean Startup include:

  • Entrepreneurs are everywhere
  • Entrepreneurship is management
  • Validated Learning
  • Innovation Accounting
  • Build Measure Learn

We caught up with Lean Startup proponent Peter Shanley, principle of Neo, a product innovation company in San Francisco for a quick chat. Shanley will be speaking in the upcoming Refresh Miami event about applying lean startup principles to the creative process.

Tech Cocktail: The Lean Startup provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups. In your opinion, what is the most important principle when it comes to launching a new product? Does it differ when you are dealing with a large enterprise or startup?

Peter Shanley: The most important principal in Lean Startup is centered on the creation of an actionable, shared understanding. That is why a business model canvass is so important. It gets everyone on the team thinking about the big picture, customer and business in a way that is accessible across roles. It’s something that can then change as needed, as opposed to the business plan of the industrial/manufacturing age which was so lengthy that once created, it was seen as immutable when in reality it’s based on assumptions and grounded in uncertainty.

TC: What is wrong with the “just do it” approach, especially when it comes to managing a startup?

Shanley: Spray and pray is not a strategy. Hope is not a strategy. It’s hard work to be rigorous and hypothesis-driven. Data-driven is a fallacy, as data can be used to tell any story or paint a picture that is true in the eye of the beholder. Data is only helpful when you know why you are collecting it, how it should be interpreted, and what to do next now that you have removed some risk/uncertainty.

TC: In your opinion, why do so many startups have such a difficult time in launching new ventures to market?

Shanley: It’s a nearly impossible pursuit, balancing assumptions across whether something is valuable, usable and feasible. That Venn diagram is essential, with your goal to shoot for the middle overlap between the why, what and how of new ventures. Culture and attitude is as important as tech and design. Teams need trust and humility to adapt to lessons learned/feedback while staying motivated to work insane hours in pursuit of a leap of faith vision.

TC: What was the last product that you’ve seen in market that you thought it would not work but it did?

Shanley: Pinterest… I should listen to my wife more.

TC: In your opinion, what is the hardest part of pivoting?

Shanley: Getting your motivation back. You have just poured your blood, sweat and tears into something that didn’t work. That’s why respecting the anchor foot in the symbolic basketball move is key.

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Camila has been heavily active in South Florida’s tech startup community, where she is a co-host of a local radio show called pFunkcast. Camila previously worked at Greenpeace International and the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in various communication roles. A proud Brazilian who spent most of he life in Peru, she is passionate about traveling and documentaries.

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