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4 Lean Strategies You Can Use To Innovate Your Life

Did you know we can use the same Lean Startup principles for innovating products and businesses in our personal lives?

4 Lean Strategies You Can Use To Innovate Your Life
[Photo: Flickr user Josh Meek]

Wouldn’t it be great if we could extract the strategies that go into developing the world’s greatest technological advances and use them for our own personal development?

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The most common methodology used today to bring about these advances is the lean innovation strategy.

When Eric Ries released his book The Lean Startup in 2011 his approach to product development created a global movement. Everyone from startups acquired by Google to corporate giants like General Electric and Dropbox have adopted it.

Here are four tips for innovating your life by going lean:

1. Vision Leads The Way

When Apple first thought of the iPod, Steve Jobs didn’t specifically set out saying he wanted a device with a stainless steel back, a navigating scroll wheel, and storage for your entire music library. Their initial idea was simply to create a better MP3 player. They didn’t know how they were going to do it, but they used that vision to guide them.

As humans, we often disregard our long-term goals because we want immediate benefits for our actions. With life being so unpredictable it’s hard to associate how what we do today will affect us a year from now. The problem is that when we disconnect our short-term efforts from our long-term dreams, we often lose our sense of direction and can feel trapped.

Like Apple, your vision is the most critical part of achieving what you want in life and enjoying it along the way. It doesn’t need to be specific, have a determined end date or even be within your reach; but you must find something that you truly desire. It may be starting your own business, finding a new job, improving your health or even breaking a certain habit.

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2. Set Goals, Measure Milestones

One thing is certain about innovation; the final product is always much different than the original idea. Companies rarely set out with the goal to create a specific product by a certain date. If they did, they would be tied to a precise timetable that would leave little room to incorporate new ideas, changes and lessons learned along the way.

So why do we? In order to succeed, we must be able to adapt our plans incrementally rather than trying to forecast our own accomplishments on a calendar.

When you have goals that support your vision, they help plan your progress and provide short-term focus. When they are connected to milestones and not strict deadlines, they leave room for creativity and flexibility. Milestones are used as scheduled events in the lean methodology to assess the progress of your goals and determine if your current strategy is taking you closer to your vision. If not then adjustments can be made to get you back on track.

Your vision, goals, and milestones help create a routine that will be the driving force behind your success.

3. Treat Everything Like An Experiment

The Lean Startup is largely replacing an antiquated process of product development and follows a simple concept: that it is better to fail many small times than one big time. Previously, companies would sometimes spend millions of dollars and several years on research and development prior to releasing their product to the public. If the product didn’t resonate with customers the failure would leave them with money lost, time wasted, and their image hurt (think Orbtiz Soda or the McDonald’s Arch Deluxe burger).

How this new approach differs is a company builds a very basic and less costly version of their product so they can get potential customers testing it right away. Based on the feedback they receive they are able to make incremental adjustments to the product, incorporate what they learn at each milestone and repeat this process until ready for the masses.

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Ries says “Everything a startup does is understood to be an experiment designed to achieve validated learning.” The faster you learn what doesn’t work, the more time you can spend on what does.

As humans, we need to change our mindset and look for ways in which we can experiment, test, and practice more. The purpose of this is to not try and fail; it’s an understanding that each experiment whether a failure or success is providing critical information that is helping us tweak the present to support the future. The more we experience, the more knowledge we gain which we can then apply to new situations and other areas in our life. This enables us to recognize opportunities that we never would have seen before.

Growing a technology startup like ePACT Network has seen everything from our product to our messaging evolve over time. Our vision though has always been to ensure organizations, employees, and their families can communicate during a natural disaster.

I translated this process to my personal life when I was determined to become a better public speaker. I took every social situation as an opportunity to experiment. I began striking up random conversations with Starbucks baristas, doing toasts at friend’s birthdays, and going out of my way to speak in situations I normally never would. Every moment I stepped out of my comfort zone I was learning to diminish my fears and develop confidence in front of an audience.

4. Simplicity Is The Key

Innovation is effective and powerful simplicity. Every new product is taking a complex or antiquated process and making it easier and more accessible.

Your vision is designed to simplify the process of achievement and ensure you are always pointed in the right direction. If you aren’t then it may be time for a pivot, which as Ries describes as “a change in strategy without a change in vision.”

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If your strategy doesn’t work, you can adopt a new one that’s more likely to make your vision a reality.

Graham Young writes about unique strategies that support personal growth, professional achievement and peak performance. He is the COO of Graham Theodor & Co., an investment holding company and manages business development for ePACT Network, a technology startup. Connect with him on Twitter @IamGrahamYoung

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