As a startup founder I am always trying to do more with less. This typically means that I am trying to get more work done with less time and money and end up focused on efficiency. This is really tempting because it is very tangible and easy to measure. When I negotiate a better rate for service, I feel good because I know exactly how much money I am saving. When I automate a process that used to be manual, I know exactly how much time I am saving every week. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very important activity for a startup, but it has the potential to mislead you into thinking you are doing the right things when really you may just be getting better at the wrong things.
If you are not familiar with this event, Lean Startup Machine is an intensive three-day workshop, which teaches Lean Startup methodologies and their application. The process that they teach promotes a problem-centric approach to business ideation. The event was great in many ways, but the thing that struck me the most was the large amount of tangible learning that happened over the three days.
It was quite striking to see the attendees make so much progress and I think that this was in a large part due to their focus on a “problem-centric” approach. The technique has you list out your assumptions and then work to validate or invalidate the riskiest one…usually by getting out of the building! This forces a focus on being effective rather than efficient and I think that is the key.
Being efficient is incremental. It’s learning techniques to do more with less over time. Being effective is more direct and helps you to solve problems and uncover truths more quickly.
In a startup being efficient is important, but being effective is vital.
If it’s been a while since you have felt truly effective, take in an event like Lean Startup Machine, refocus and remind yourself about what’s possible.