dear Advisor: should i PIVOT?

Or what is "Build, measure, learn"?

Eric Ries first introduced the idea of making incremental, small changes to your product to get feedback faster -- with 3 steps to iterative learning he called the "build-measure-learn" cycle. A cycle to try before investing too much money into the idea, in his book The Lean Startup.

Based on my 10 years of experience collaborating with companies of all shares, sizes and industries, I've come to see the cycle as having 11 more specific steps. These steps define an iterative process that you can use at any stage of your product development to help you uncover customer frustrations and fix them, as soon as possible -- and help you decide on what to do next, before overhauling your product and business model.


  1. Brainstorm all ideas you’re considering exploring

  2. Simplify each idea into the smallest (e.g. 1%) solution that would get you there

  3. Prioritize the list to narrow it down to 1 idea, based on: business impact, time to deliverable, data availability and how interconnected this project is to the others

  • Example: Beginning to charge users for (an aspect of) your product

  1. Design what the 1% solution (e.g. experiment) would look like

  2. Define Metric(s) on what success will look like for the prioritized idea and in what time frame

  • Example (cont'd): % unique users that would buy product at $10/month

  1. Calculate Baseline, in the same time frame, what the metric looks like now (0 is OK here), and specify what we need to see if experiment succeeds [Lean Analytics book]

  • Example (cont'd): We’re currently at 0% because we haven’t charged anyone yet. We want to get to 10 users by the end of the week.

  1. Specify Target on what the metric needs to be to conclude that the experiment was a success

  2. Build the experiment to check your hypothesis. One approach [Gary Livingston ] is to create a pre-orders/waitlist for the feature/product before building the feature/product:

      1. Create a landing page to sell the product to your ideal customers, as if it exists.

      2. Take them through the complete checkout process, which includes them placing the order.

      3. Once the order has been “placed”, don’t save any of this information -- and tell them so.

      4. Then ask them to join the waitlist for the offer and record the waitlist opt-in.

9. Share experiment selectively, to a small % of the ideal audience see what you’ve built

  • Example (cont'd): While the landing page is available to everyone, the marketing announcement is sent to 1% of target audience.

10. Measure and monitor results of experiment

      • Please note: In practice, the majority of companies tend to make the offer available to everyone -- and may not have monitoring in place to see if something went wrong. We’ve all been there: trying to buy something online, but can’t actually complete the process because of broken links -- and go elsewhere.

11. Learn from experiment to decide next steps:

  • Example (cont'd): Did you get 10 users? If not, was this number too ambitious? Why? What happened?


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