The Call For Lean Learning

Last week Ben Horowitz, who with Marc Andreessen has launched a few billion dollar companies and now plays VC, posted about why training is one of the most important things comapnies can do [full post here] I think he is right. Unfortunately, I think that most people’s willingness to skip training is driven by the misguided attempts they experienced in the corporate world. With start-ups realizing that building their product based on customer learning is the right thing to do, what about building their people with learning?

This idea has fascinated me since it was sparked by a series of discussions with some really smart people a few weeks ago. As a colleague of mine points out, lean is not right for everything. This is true even in the start-up space where Horowitz makes a great case for “Fat Start-Ups” (OK, I may have a bit of a man crush on guy who can grow companies and cites rap lyrics to support his points). However lean may be right for a lot of things and especially in a start-up where speed is valued much more highly.

Adopting the Blank & Ries touted customer development cycle to employee development would be interesting for those tasked with driving performance. Minimum viable product (MVP) becomes MVL (minimum valuable learning?). A course is actually co-developed by the people that will use it thereby building evangelists that will spread the word (no more dictating attendance). The focus is on speed and learning-based iterations not a big build and the hope that the market (learner) likes it.

Learning must be the focus of all organizations. In a video posted by Venture Hacks, Marc Andreessen states that there are two things to fund. Products that become companies and companies that can build products. Many of today’s start-ups fall into the first category. As they grow they must turn themselves into the latter. Markets shift, customers are fickle but high performing people are forever.

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