Scarcity, management and lean startup

@elgrom has lent me a new book called Scarcity.

It’s about how when people are low on critical resources (money, food, etc) they focus all their attention on it and shut out the bigger picture. It’s a survival instinct.

It’s a fresh take on older research that found stress is bad for creativity. (I can’t remember the name of the research).

I think the same also applies to management. When successful projects are scarce, we focus all our attention on making the current project a success and block out the bigger picture.

I was certainly guilty of it when i was a manager. There are two recent projects which also spring to mind: Metro Play and Janrain.

Janrain was a project to integrate a third party user registration system. A proof of concept phase was carried out. The PoC turned out to be a fair chunk of work. By the end of it we’d found that Janrain was a nightmare for us. Exactly what proof of concepts are for! So we went ahead and spent several more months fully integrating Janrain.

Wait… what? But the PoC showed it was the wrong product? Yup. Something went wrong… the irrationality of scarcity?

Metro Play is a similar story.

Scarcity wasn’t the only factor but it highlights the importance of Lean Startup principles: schedule a “persevere or pivot” meeting up front. Set the criteria for it up front. That way, you can work backwards to gather all the data you need for it.


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