Key Lean Start Up Ideas Intrapreneurs Should Embrace


In his infamous Harvard Business Review paper, Steve Blank shares his insights on the Lean Startup approach that is growing in both popularity and application. The idea of embracing an approach that encourages entrepreneurs to ditch a 5-year business plan and get started with testing what works to discover the right business model made me smile. This approach is also important for the intrapreneurs who desire to create growth within the organisations they work for.

Instinctively when you are working on a new innovation you know your business plan is mostly guesswork because there are so many unknowns. Even within the business, as usual, you know that with the pace of change trying to predict what will happen in your market in the next 5 years is problematic at best. Which is why the idea of embracing a more iterative approach to innovating and discovering what works either as a start-up or existing enterprise was attractive to me.

Many argue that this approach is in fact not new and many entrepreneurs have used these ideas to get started and create successful enterprises, either way, these ideas provide a useful framework for intrapreneurs instinctive urge to get started!

Let’s explore how these ideas can be embraced by your organisation.

State Your Hypothesis 

The lean approach is about discovering a repeatable and scalable business model so rather than creating a 20-30 page business plan the idea is that you simply list a number of hypotheses you have about your business model, hypothesis meaning hunches you have about what will work or assumptions you are making based on your knowledge of the marketplace. These are typically noted down within a business model canvas, take a look at the canvas here.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) 

An MVP has only the key parts of the product that allow the idea to be launched and tested so that you can learn exactly what the customer wants before going too far and investing in developing something no one wants to buy once you have finished. Minimum does not reflect the quality of the product, it’s not about creating a poor product but rather about creating a prototype that allows you to gather customer feedback. As an intrapreneur often fighting for resource and funding its, even more, important that you do not create waste, every penny counts which is why it’s important to ensure you are creating real value for the customer so that you can create value for your organisation.  In Brick by Brick, Bill Breen & David Robertson provide great examples of how when Lego were close to bankruptcy they adopted this approach in developing some of their most successful products.

Think Big, Act Small,  Learn Fast 

The lean approach challenges intrapreneurs to solve the big problems for a small number of people first. The key is to understand what your customers want, testing your business model before you build your final product. The aim is to learn quickly, measure how customers respond and learn whether to continue with your current approach or to take a new course.
These ideas are simple yet powerful for intrapreneurs passionate about leading change within their organisation. The entrepreneurial leaders of the future will need to be bold about doing this differently, challenging the status quo and innovating their way to success.

Leone Martin, Marketing and Innovation specialist.