Steve Blank is Wrong

On the Shoulders of Giants (like Steve Blank)

Steve Blank is one of the creators and biggest champions of the lean startup methodology and movement.  A huge tip of the cap for being on the cutting edge of getting things rolling, and for using his tremendous network, resources, and platform to promote everything lean.  Without Steve and the others at the forefront of this movement, I would not be able to impact my students as meaningfully as I do.  So, for that I say thank you.

Where Has Lean Gone

Lean Startup

I got Steve’s most recent blog post in my inbox the other day.  I noticed pictures of a film crew, and a highly professionally produced video.  It looks and sounds great, but it’s not very lean, Steve.  Not that everything he does should be lean – after all, don’t the startups grow into the gorillas and stop being lean?

Then I wanted to dig a little deeper, so I started going through all the great material from Steve I have accumulated.  His Udacity course and his Slideshare account, his NSF/NCIIA I-Corps materials.  There is an awful lot of repetition throughout these materials – I feel like I’m chewing the same bubble gum but it’s just a different color.  Again, not very lean Steve.  I don’t see a whole lot of experimenting, MVPs, pivoting.  Now, I admit that I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, and I would imagine (and hope) that Steve is experimenting with new approaches.  I don’t see much talk of that, however.  I see partnerships with the NSF, with the Kauffman Foundation, with big name universities.  All good, and all impactful.  But, again, the reproduction and regurgitation is not very lean.

As an educator, I would love to see a more transparent perspective on where and how Steve is staying lean.  What is he experimenting with?  What is his next MVP?  What are his pivots?  He has been a role model and the standard for so many – I hope he doesn’t lose that focus and become the gorilla that stops innovating and experimenting.  I want to continue to learn from him, but feel I haven’t been able to recently.

As we have all learned from Steve, Eric Ries, Ash Maurya, Alex Osterwalder and others at the forefront, it shouldn’t take much to stay lean.  For instance, I developed in about 30 minutes based on a random idea I had after learning about the Datawind Ubislate 7Ci tablets.   I’ve had tremendous response and feedback from educators and entrepreneurs in the 40 minutes since I’ve posted it through social media channels.  I had an idea, I made some hypotheses, I put them out there to test, and am gathering data to reinvent the offering.  Nice and lean.

Don’t forget where you came from Steve, it would be ashame to lose your authentic and powerful lean voice.  Would that be wrong if he continued down the path he seems to be on, which is silencing that great lean voice?  I think so, because I want more of the the raw, real, lean version of Steve.  I’m partial to New Yorkers, what can I say?

8 thoughts on “Steve Blank is Wrong

  1. Go for it Doan! We have to be careful that we don’t get “comfortable” and set in our ways! In #ented we all, including Steve Blank, should continue to keep looking for ways to “Just do it – better!” and of course “Keep smiling!”

  2. Hi Doan,
    How timely! I just posted on Slideshare a presentation entitled, “Why Steve Blank’s Customer Development Stack is Good But Not Great.” My critique addresses several of the points that you make in your above posting.


    It would be great to have your feedback as well as share ideas on evolution of the Customer Development Stack towards the Ideal Business Model Innovation Toolkit.


  3. Steve Blank has found product/market fit and now he’s scaling. That’s the end goal of lean.

    Also, having a professional film crew shoot a video isn’t the opposite of lean. Lean does not mean cheap – it means not wasteful.

    1. Hashim – Agreed that he is playing the endgame of lean, and I applaud him heartily for being able to make it to the scaling stage. I was musing that it would be nice for him to share some of his next projects, if he’s working on any. Ones that don’t replicate what he’s already doing. As an educator (and I cannot remove that bias from myself) I would rather see him practicing what he preaches instead of just preaching at us. And not that lean has to be cheap – that’s not what I’m saying. Having those film crews and that level of production is wasteful. It’s not necessary. In today’s world, he could accomplish the same with an iPhone and a tripod. So I would argue that it is wasteful. Again, not that that is wrong, but maybe just a twinge of hypocrisy don’t you think?

      1. Doan,

        With respect, and solely my opinion, this is a moot argument. As you rightly state in your post: “Without Steve and the others at the forefront of this movement, I would not be able to impact my students as meaningfully as I do.” For our involvement (Kauffman), we are looking to share Steve’s lean model as far and wide as possible – scale.

        As he is now featured in our Kauffman Founders School, eship educators from around the world have access to this great content. And like it or not, production quality of content does affect consumption. I dont doubt iPhone and tripod production is adequate for many things … but reems of our web analytics indicate higher produced content gets better uptake. We learned the same with our Sketchbooks. We could have had simple talking head videos, but the messaging and interest level would be diminished.

        Just my two cents …

        1. Thom – Thanks for reading and commenting – much appreciated. Scale and reach are certainly fantastic, and I think partnerships with NSF, Kauffman Foundation, NCIIA and many others have done wonders to spread the lean methodology far and wide. And that is a tremendous achievement for educators, for students, for practitioners, for policy makers, etc. I just hope that Steve (and others at the forefront) are practicing what they preach and working on next iterations to stay on the forefront of the movement. It would be ashame if the early part of the lean movement lost them to the scale part. But, at the end of the day, as long as they are involved, it is of benefit to tons of folks, and that’s a great contribution to the field.

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