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Book Recap: The Lean Startup Chapter 3 – Learn

The effort that is not absolutely necessary for learning what customers want can be eliminated.

Eric Ries
The Lean Startup

There are two kinds of learning. One is as an excuse for failure of execution. The other helps make genuine progress in the core metrics of a startup with empirical data, which Ries named it validated learning. Here’s what happened at IMVU that Ries shared in the book.

Ries and the team at IMVU came up with the idea to bring their 3D avatar tech into the instant messaging market. They came up with a brilliant strategy to avoid competition with the already crowded market. After six months of hard work, they finally launch the product. However, no one wants to use it. Now here comes the fun part.

You might already figure out what ingredient they are missing – yes, talking to users. That is exactly what the team did after countless desperation. But not until yet another long round of desperation did they realize what the customers really want.

Ries slowly learned after years that many of the efforts in the early days were wasted. Because those outcomes could have been earned in other forms, just easier. He figured out that they could have conducted an experiment, just offering customers the “opportunity” to try out the proposed features, and more importantly, measuring their behavior. They could have known if it worth the effort to really build the thing. Nowadays, I believe this fairly popular idea is called A/B testing.