Lean methods have changed how entrepreneurship is done – now they should change how we analyse what is done too.
Take Entrepreneurship research. The traditional view of the entrepreneurial process is that of the prospective small business owner developing an exhaustive plan, executing it with well-defined targets and metrics followed by evaluation and, possibly, adjustment (or failure often enough). This approach to entrepreneurship (and research) has largely been driven by the thinking that a planning stage is needed to harness resources in the right configuration to solve a problem.
This doesn’t need to be the case anymore. More and more entrepreneurship manifests itself in a very different way. Lean methods have changed the way some things are done. Lean methods mean that instead of sole focus on planning, the key issue is idea validation. Idea validation is a combination of idea generation and opportunity formation, and they happen in parallel – not in sequence.
The problem is that the use of lean methods by some start-ups has yet to leave an imprint on the conceptualisation of the entrepreneurial process. And they are not the only change that should be looked at. Digitalisation has made resources available immediately at little to almost no cost. Lean methods and digitalisation are the outcomes, platforms and the external enablers that mean that entrepreneurship can be done faster. We’ve moved from the model of plan – do – evaluate to a method of do – evaluate – iterate.
This changes how uncertainty is dealt with. Failed assumptions are identified much faster. There’s no room for the wild guesses that plans are built on. Entrepreneurs iterate away from business models that don’t work and progress into product market fit!
Perhaps we researchers should try to reconstruct the approaches and concepts of the entrepreneurial process. It’s more about teams than about the individual. It’s more about idea validation than planning the idea. Potential customers are involved more and much earlier than they have ever been before. All this is because the entrepreneurial process is less a process… more it just seems to happen.
So, you researchers reading this, if you’ve got an idea, try it. Won’t take but a little while. Submit a poster to a conference before spending a month writing that funding proposal. Send that email. Do. Evaluate. Iterate.
Pekka Stenholm (Senior Researcher in the Entrepreneurship Unit)
Matti Karinen (Doctoral Candidate in the Entrepreneuriship Unit)