One of the better recent works is Little Bets by Peter Sims. His basic insight is that original thinkers use many small, experimental prototypes to test and evolve ideas that are achievable and affordable. As ever, it is about making mistakes – but making sure they are inexpensive – and learning from the error.
In a general sense, acquiring a low-cost business education is a sound philosophy. I notice that many of the bolder and more exciting ideas in restaurants and food service are not actually launching as full-blown, large scale outlets. Rather, the cutting edge stuff is being initiated by entrepreneurs as market stalls or mobile food trucks. Typically these operators are specialist – serving pies, or churros, or porridge, or hot dogs or some other niche cuisine – with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal and local fare. They are not the traditional food kiosks – rather they are gourmet offerings, selling to discerning customers. They turn up at curb sides, festivals, shopping centres and university campuses.
Such projects are perhaps a tenth of the capital cost of a conventional restaurant – and they provide an authenticity that many customers like. Moreover, they can open very quickly – the usual property planning, licensing and negotiation hurdles are almost irrelevant. And because the budgets are so much lower, the risks are commensurately less of a deterrent. The usual barriers to entry are absent – what it takes is imagination and energy. Most of the players in this street food revolution are young and not industry veterans. They bring fresh ideas and a passion, rather than the predictable and over-priced meals too common among many high street chains.
Market research is never quite as informative as a real product trial. Actually opening a new store concept, or launching a new brand, will always tell you more. But the key is to do it quickly and cheaply enough so that if it is a flop, the practice run can be abandoned or altered without too much pain. Informal methods are one way of cutting costs and timetables. And they are a reminder that without regular speculations, we face a future of stagnation – because by definition progress means relentless activity and hope, rather than inertia.
This is what we mean by lean startup by combining marketing with marketing research: little bets are low costs of startup. Marketing research is never quite as informative as a real product trial, this is very true! Ecological research provides the theory frame for entrepreneurs: we rely not just on high conscious research but also non-conscious efforts. But conscious versus non-consciousness is not best in describing the difference. It is rather the wholeness of simulating (through marketing research) versus direct immersing in reality (through marketing + marketing research)