Three of My Favorite Things…

Scott Francis
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It isn’t that often that I run across a good blog that covers three of my favorite things:
  1. Apple (or Apple products)
  2. Startups
  3. Process
But Eric Ries managed to hit all three topics in The Steve Jobs Method.  Eric writes regularly on the subject of startups and the Customer Development and Continuous Deployment approaches to startups.  And recently he wrote to address in a more thorough way the question he is often asked at his talks:
“Look, Steve Jobs doesn’t go out and ask customers what they want. He doesn’t put out crappy, buggy products and then ask for feedback. And he doesn’t shy away from big-bang launch events. He tells customers what they want, and he gets it right. So how do you reconcile his success with the lean startup, which seems to suggest the opposite?”
I love the candor of Eric’s post, the fact that he admits he has typically not had a great answer for this response.  For one thing, putting out a hardware device is very different from releasing a website or easily-updated software release (and Eric’s advice is mainly targeted at software companies, though most of the concepts can apply to any startup if you engage in a little creative license).  So by the very nature of the product, the process has to be different. I find it interesting in the comments below his post, several comments seem to think that Apple doesn’t “iterate”… but since when do all iterations have to make it into production?  In the work we (bp3) do on business processes, we typically have 3-4 iterations before going “live” to production.  Any hardware-producing company worth their salt is going to have internal iterations – prototypes.  There is evidence (though second-hand) of Apple going through a lot of iterations internally before releasing product to market.  Of course the big mystery for everyone is how Apple does such a (relatively) good job of correctly identifying when they’ve got a product that people will actually want. Read Eric’s post – he makes the case more persuasively than I can.  I’ll just sign off by saying, I think Apple’s product development process is not inspired genius, but rather a process that leverages their many talents to produce great results, consistently.  No doubt Steve Jobs’ experience with Pixar’s creative development of movies, and his NeXT team’s experience prior to Apple helped inform this process and improve it.