This is a big one for me. Yesterday I discussed the principle of focus with a friend and my mind came up with a visual (see below) to help me better understand what focus really means.
This post is best viewed in the context of business modelling, which calls for a focus on the smallest possible first product, also known as the MVP (minimum viable product). Ash Maurya, a leading figure in the lean startup world, is my lean coach and during our call last week he expressed his view on a possible MVP for my business. My mind kept working away on the topic after our talk and that led me to think more deeply about focusing.
The chocolate and its nuts
So back to the visual I mentioned above.
Imagine we wanted to build the world’s most irresistible chocolate store (I’m Swiss, I can’t help it!) with our own R&D and an in-house production facility. We would want to have a variety of different chocolates with nuts in them as one of many segments. Here are 3 approaches to tackle this task.
A: Focus by coincidence – the regular entrepreneur
Most people would attempt to do as many different things as they can until they run out of energy and money. I know from experience how that feels.
B: Some focus – the “almost-lean” entrepreneur
The average “almost-lean practitioner” might be a bit smarter. He or she would let an existing chocolate factory produce only the first 3 kinds of chocolate with nuts in them (their first segment), which he or she then would try to sell out of a box on a bicycle.
I tried something similar to that until 5 months ago thinking I was already “doing lean”.
C: Radical focus – the lean entrepreneur
Even better, the radically lean way of thinking reduces things a whole lot further. The real lean practitioner which I’m in the process of becoming might have found out in interviews that chocolate with nuts is actually more about the nut than anything else. The lean practitioner might decide to have no chocolate at all to sell in the beginning!
She or he would instead focus on finding the perfect nut and then start selling just this one kind of nut in bags of five – specifically to lovers of chocolates with nuts in them!
Only if that offering proves to be too small to serve as our MVP would we then add cacao to the nut and take things from there.
It will drive me nuts but I’m happy
That’s very radical thinking. It’s counterintuitive for doers and it will drive me nuts for sure. But it will guide me in the right direction and I’m happy I now have this clear visual for the abstract term “focus”.