At the end of August I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to sit in on Steve Blank and Bob Dorf‘s Lean Launchpad Class at Columbia University.  Teams apply to the five day class with a business idea, watch Steve’s videos on Udacity, develop a business model canvas pre-class, and spend the five days doing “Customer Development.”  Each day, teams present their business model canvas and get their ideas torn apart by Steve and the rest of the teaching team.  They then go out and interview customers, build cheap prototypes, test their prototypes, and update their business model canvas for the next day’s presentation.  The next day, the process repeats.

It was a fun week with a lot of laughs and few bruised egos.  Perhaps the biggest complaint I heard from students in the class is some believed the class was poorly branded.  The class isn’t really about how to launch a business, it’s about how to evaluate a business idea.  I can sympathize with this argument, but I would argue it’s more about launching a company with a “Lean” mind set (in the spirit of Lean Startup).



For me, the big problem in the class was step 1, the “Ideas.”  With all due respect to the students in the class (most of whom are Executive MBA students that have great jobs and careers already and were taking class as much to learn about the concepts and theories as to really try and launch their ideas), I was surprised on day one at what I felt were mostly pretty low quality ideas.

For me, this has always been a major disconnect with Lean Startup, step 1, “Idea.”  Where do these ideas come from?  And as we come around the cycle, now we’ve learned, how are we supposed to come up with new ideas?  To me, the class felt a little like playing darts with your back turned to the dart board.  You throw the dart over your shoulder and guess what, you miss…by a long shot.  Then some people tell you about just how far off you really are, and hopefully give some hints as to where to throw it next.

But the fact is, there are a lot of techniques and research around developing better ideas.  I took a couple fantastic courses at Columbia specifically about this: Customer Centric Innovation with Olivier Toubia and Napoleon’s Glance with William Duggan.  Stanford’s d.School explores this topic from every angle possible.

So, that’s the inspiration for this blog.  Where do innovative ideas come from?  How can we foster innovative thinking?  And how to make sure innovative ideas are recognized and prioritized?  I hope you enjoy, drop me a line if you have ideas!