Photo: Trevor Owens
Sorry, there is actually no secret. Innovation is a process. After teaching aspiring entrepreneurs how to test out their ideas early on, Trevor Owens, the co-founder of The Lean Startup Machine, has finally introduced the concepts of lean startup to the corporate world — and to his surprise, it wasn’t so bad.
“There is a lot we don’t even know yet. The myth is that you can’t teach it. Venture capitalists look for genetic traits. Entrepreneurs are viewed as crazy and willing to do anything to achieve that dream. If you don’t fit this type, then you don’t fit into the DNA of an entrepreneur,” Owens said.
That’s not true. Owens believes entrepreneurship is a type of management science and that it should be accessible to more than just the people who happen to be in the know.
“Today, we have MBA programs to teach a process for managing big companies. Entrepreneurship is only so old. People have done it instinctively as far as history goes back. But venture capital and high tech startups are a relatively new industry. We are just coming to the point when we can understand the processes to measure our results,” Owens said.
Owens just finished teaching his first corporate client. He was brought into The Library Corporation, a company in West Virginia that makes software for libraries, to give them a culture shock.
Owens told us what happened:
- He solicited ideas. “Everyone had their own idea that they were passionate about. Within the first hour, I worked with them and decided which tests we were going to do. They totally went out of their comfort zone.”
- They went out on the street and asked people if their ideas were good.
- The teams validated their ideas online: “All the teams pivoted from their original idea. Some teams killed their ideas and came up with something new.”
- Some teams got customers: “One of the teams that won had $1,000, collected through letters of intent, from customers saying they are interested in their product.”
- Now they like innovation: “A lot of people on the second day said, ‘I was totally against it at first, I can’t believe all the things that we’ve done in two days.'”
“I was worried that they wouldn’t be as hungry. Usually, entrepreneurs struggle because they are to stubborn. These [corporate] guys were more diligent with the process,” he said.
The key is to identify a main problem you can tackle instead of the grand vision. Then, figure out the riskiest assumption that can go wrong and how to test for that.