What is this technique about
Lean startup is, in essence, a methodology to develop businesses and products that consists of applying the scientific method to a business model. It is about proposing a hypothesis or business idea, creating a rudimentary prototype with a low cost and testing it with clients in an initial stage, so that we can immediately detect possible problems and thus implement improvements in that prototype before investing large amounts of time and money on a product whose approach may be wrong.
Applying Lean startup in education helps us develop in our students the competence of sense of initiative and entrepreneurial spirit, while giving them a guideline to test their idea at an initial stage of the project with potential clients and thus, testing whether their model is correct or needs to be improved / revised.
Lean startup is closely linked to Design thinking. The Design Thinking methodology encourages the search for innovative answers to current problems, while Lean startup puts this idea to the test.
Where does it come from
This methodology was developed by Eric Ries with influence from the Lean manufacturing methodology, created by Kiichiro Toyoda, and Steve Blank’s customer development methodology.
For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)
This technique is used in education for several purposes:
It helps to “plan” in students the seed of entrepreneurship”, helping them to develop the competence of a sense of initiative and entrepreneurial spirit, which is so much talked about, and which we all consider so necessary in today’s society, but very few teachers know how to work with it in class. Lean startup proposes a practical way of working on this competence.
Testing hypotheses and ideas with other people and realizing that perhaps one was wrong in its approach, helps students to have a more open, receptive and above all more flexible mind. Thus, they realize that reality is not always how they perceive it. In addition, applied to a possible entrepreneurship project, it makes students and future entrepreneurs learn the importance of what Nestor Guerra calls “learning cheap”, that is, testing a business idea at an initial stage, in time to rethink it or improve it before making a large investment.
It also helps to improve the communication skills of our students. When having to test their product or idea with other people, students find themselves in the need to explain their work, to defend it, to really listen and understand the feedback provided by theirs colleagues and / or potential clients.
How to use it
Step 1: Create
Students are asked to develop an entrepreneurial idea or initiative and create a very basic prototype, also called a minimum viable product, to illustrate it. This prototype can be a poster, a design made in three dimensions with plasticine, cardboard, etc., even legos; It could also be a video or a 3D model made with the computer, etc. The important thing is that they have something “real” to show to their potential clients.
Step 2: Measure
Students are asked to test this initial prototype with potential clients, who may be colleagues, family or friends, although the feedback would be much more valuable if they tested it with people with whom they do not have an emotional bond. They are also asked to collect the data in a standardized way and we will help them to analyze these data as it would be done according to the scientific method.
Step 3: Learn
Students are asked to draw conclusions about the feedback received. Have they had the expected success / response? Have they detected a major bug in its product? Based on the information collected, what things would they incorporate into its project to make it more suitable for their customers, thus increasing the potential profit?
Repeat these three steps as many times as necessary until they get a final product adjusted to the real needs of the market, so it will have a good chance of being successful. Thinking about how to implement this technique in the class, this process can be carried out only once or several times, depending on the goals that you, as teacher, want to achieve with this project, the characteristics of your class and the available time that has been planned for carrying out this activity.
How to implement this techniques online
Although it can be used on-line, the techniques works best in physical settings allowing for direct and easy interaction between teacher and students, and between the students themselves. Doing it on-line requires more preparation on the part of the teacher, such as:
- preparing a workbook in advance which everybody can access, or
- before using the breakout session, sending everybody a link to a cloud document where they can find the instructions, or
- drawing their attention to materials they might need during training (e.g. a piece of paper, a pair of scissors or a pen).
But also more moderating, and planning for the student presentation and feedback, such as:
- Create a space where students upload their basic prototype;
- Defines the rules for feedback and testing of assumptions if this is done on-line (e.g. in a joint session or asynchronous through comment options).
When you use the breakout session, you – the facilitator – can of course always join the breakout rooms to clarify an activity, but as for virtual team work, also for a virtual training the following rule applies: “Be as clear, explicit and concise as possible!”
Make sure to repeat the instructions given in writing again at the beginning of the session. Very often it happens that some participants might not read the email carefully or at all before the session. Doing a quick check-off at the start, ensures that as many participants as possible have the necessary props (e.g. paper, post-it, scissors, etc.).
It Is Important that the you only monitor the discussion of the groups, you should not try to direct their Idea.
Make sure that the students feel comfortable during implementation of the technique.
Examples and/or testimonials
There are many examples and cases on the use of LEAN STARTUP, but we have not yet found one where this technique is issued in a virtual environment.
If you have used this technique in an online or virtual setting, or know about a case please let us know.
- Concept Board
The Lean Startup. (2022). The Lean Startup | The Movement That Is Transforming How New Products Are Built And Launched. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from https://theleanstartup.com
Ritika. (2015, November 09). How Lean Startup Is Changing High School Education. Lean Startup Co. (LSCo). Retrieved January 09, 2023, from https://leanstartup.co/how-lean-startup-is-changing-high-school-education
University of Copenhagen. (2023). The Lean startup – Innovation and entrepreneurship in education. Model: The Lean startup. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from https://innovationenglish.sites.ku.dk/model/the-lean-startup
BCC Speakers. (2017, September 04). ERIC RIES – The Lean Startup. [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UG_bEEgv2HU
City Vision University. (2016, January 26). Session 8: Lean Startup Methodology for Education (Udemy & iTunesU Course). [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a6iyYR5cLk
Jason Cheung. (2020, August 02). THE LEAN STARTUP: Validated Learning (Chapter 3 Summary). [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28QXm3m_Efs
Fancy, T. (2017, April 18). A Lean Startup Approach to Education Development. Topic “World of Work”. WISE – ThinkBay Qatar Foundation – Education City. Available at: https://www.wise-qatar.org/startup-approach-development-tariq-fancy/
Ritika. (2015, November 09). How Lean Startup Is Changing High School Education. Lean Startup Co. (LSCo). Available at: https://leanstartup.co/how-lean-startup-is-changing-high-school-education
Wang, X., Khanna, D. & Abrahamsson, P. (2016, June). Teaching Lean Startup at University: an Experience Report. In: International Workshop on Software Startups (IWSS) co-located with 22nd ICE/IEEE International Technology Management Conference, June 13th, 2016. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323808770_Teaching_Lean_Startup_at_University_an_Experience_Report#fullTextFileContent
Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Penguin Business. ISBN-13: 978-0307887894. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/6418358/The_Lean_Startup_How_Today_s_Entrepreneurs_Use_Continuous_Innovation_to_Create_Radically_Successful_Businesses