9 reflections from the Lean Startup Summit in Berlin

February 13, 2019

By Jack Clark and Alex Menczykowski

This week we attended the Lean Startup Summit in Berlin to discuss corporate innovation, metrics, and excessive diamonds. Below are a few things we agreed on during the flight home.

1. The demand for innovation accounting is here. The tools aren’t far behind

Most of what we refer to as ‘innovation’ is intangible; the effort put in to exploring, testing, and understanding goes unseen and unquantified. Those with the purse strings want to know what exactly it is they’re paying for. Similarly, those of us on the ground need to prove the value in the learnings we’ve acquired – even when we’re forced to pivot.

Awareness might be the first step, but we should be further on than that by now. Some of the tools shown at the summit—specifically the early Innovation Metrics framework from the guys at Strategyzer - might well help us get there.

Innovation accounting is a way of evaluating progress when all the metrics typically used in an established company (revenue, customers, ROI, market share), are effectively zero.Eric Reis, The Lean Startup

2. Tracking risk is the only metric that matters

For ‘tracking innovation’, read ‘reducing and managing risk’. At the start of any process, the risk levels are as high as they’ll ever be, and whilst reducing them in the build-up to launch is a science, quantifying risk is is an art. Working out when to ‘press go’ relies on both.

When you start out you have to admit, you have no f*cking clue… risk is 100%.Alex Osterwalder, Strategyzer

3. Launching is just the beginning. Really.

It’s easy to understand why founders and budget holders alike focus on launch. It’s the big day for their baby, and it’s a big deal. But the importance of organising to scale (that for so long has gone underestimated) is very quickly being acknowledged by those in seats of power. If you can learn to love life after launch, you’ll live your best life.

4. Customers and technology change. Your ideas aren’t immune to that

It’s hard enough to scale as it is, but scaling with style will require an understanding of both your future customers and their evolving contexts. Doing that well is difficult, however it could be how you beat competitors to customers in pursuit of growth.

Only 0.4% of startups scale. Of those that do, 80% focus on—or engage with—new product launches, and do it every year.Annie Chen Andersson, ScaleUpNation

5. We’ve hit peak framework

Frameworks are good, they’re useful. But we’re at a stage where they’re being created to generate ‘IP’, not value. The best tools and frameworks are famous for a reason and we shouldn’t be afraid to use them, regardless of where they come from.

We’re not saying we shouldn’t constantly question our approach (quite the opposite in fact), but should we question if we’re actually saying anything original? New process isn’t good work – how many diamonds is too many diamonds?

Knowing [process] is not enough. The expert level is doing.Tendayi Viki, Strategyzer

6. Corporates aren’t necessarily playing catch-up (and vice versa)

Two common myths are slowly being eradicated and the fallout will be fun.

Myth 1: Corporates are less innovative than startups. They don’t have to be, and a few are starting to show the many what good looks like (see IKEA and Bosch).

Myth 2: Startups are less funded than corporates. Thanks to VCs and their hunt for unicorns, the financial backing is as level as it’s ever been.

7. Sustainable learning is essential

Budget holders have long had good reason to believe in the power of external help, but the dangers of relying on it exclusively are there for all to see. As partners, we need to acknowledge that taking the knowledge and learnings away when a relationship ends is irresponsible. Working and growing together is the remedy, and building muscle as we go is part of that.

Retaining knowledge in house must be the key focus. Helping clients generate that is our job, and any change needs to be sustainable.

8. Clarity is critical for everyone

Working in isolation is bad and we all know this to be true – it’s why we have offices full of distractions and fridges full of coconut water 🙃. However, whilst we typically associate silos with departments, it’s time we acknowledged that any project or methodology approached in isolation is at risk of confusing stuff further. Sharing the bigger picture won’t hurt. If anything, it will help everyone who can to see it.

Imagine making all of your projects transparent. Then you’ll know which idea you need to kill.Alex Osterwalder, Strategyzer

9. Spend time on the relationship with the mothership

With any new bet — be it your intrepreneur’s hobby horse or your next Beta Business — where it sits in relation to power is vital to how it will evolve. Cannibalisation, constraint, support, and influence are all very real factors that need to be addressed on an ongoing basis, before and after launch. Ensuring you’ve got clear policies that help innovation teams collaborate with the core business is a must.

If you don’t have a bridge to the core, you’re just a startup in chains.Tendayi Viki, Strategyzer

Were you there too?

What resonated with you the most? Tweet Alex and Jack to continue the conversation!

For more insights and reflections from the Idean team, sign up to our regular newsletter, Wunderkammer:

First Name
Privacy Notice