2013, The Year of the Lean Enterprise?

This post originally appeared on the Pollenizer blog

It looks like I’m a few days late to proclaim 2013 the year for Southeast Asia startups. Props to my old colleague Michael Smith and Asia’s best tech writer Jon Russell for nailing that, and yes of course I agree wholeheartedly. That’s why we’re here! But while we’re on the topic of what’s hot in 2013, I like to add the penetration of lean startup into the enterprise as another space to watch.

This trend started coming into focus for me when I watched the simulcast of last December’s Lean Startup Conference, where Eric Ries shared the stage with Beth Comstock, an SVP at GE, America’s last super conglomerate. The topic is clearly on Steve Blank’s mind as well. And where giants tread, the rest of us are sure to follow. The move towards corporates is supported by the lean startup movement’s increasing sophistication, highlighted at last year’s conference and in works like the forthcoming Lean Analytics book.

As a former member of a skunk works team at Scholastic that came up with a revolutionary publishing model, the move toward lean makes perfect sense. Back then (in 2006), our pattern was to build a prototype, show it around to executives and try to get funding for the real thing. So in other words we were proposing innovative concepts that we weren’t sure would work, and then putting them through a traditional approval process built for less risky projects. As corporates adopt lean startup techniques, they can get out of this bind by letting skunk works teams launch MVPs that generate real market feedback. This turns intrapreneurship from a pitching and politics game into a traction and data game, which is a huge improvement.

The growing awareness of lean startup techniques in the corporate world is due in part to outreach from consultancies like Neo pitching high value consulting using lean methods. The Lean Startup Machine folks are doing their part as well. And plenty of others are singing a similar tune, like this Aussie firm which promises 3 weeks to MVP plus an awesome lean enterpreneurship video free of charge. It’s striking to me how similar that Aussie firm’s pitch is to small consultancies targeted at entrepreneurs.

For our part, Pollenizer has been pushing lean to corporates for years via trainings, partnerships and corporate co-founding. But if this type of engagement isn’t new for us, the vibe and interest in recent months does feel special. For example, we’ve given multiple talks in the past few months to very traditional corporates in the Philippines about lean startup and have been approached by firms in Singapore for similar engagements that you would never think might show interest.

The penetration of lean principles into corporate environments will be a huge win for startups and stockholders alike. If you’re working in this space and would like to share notes or collaborate, please do reach out and let us know. The more the merrier!