(From Forbes) -- “Startup success can be engineered by following the process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.” - Eric Ries, author “The Lean Startup"

We used to think of new technology products as “unveilings.” A group of engineers would lock themselves in a room with too much beer and pizza and emerge six months later with the next great thing. The problem with this approach, of course, was that they never knew if they had an iPhone on their hands — or a Newton; there was no way to predict how the market would react.

So when we started to think about building the product that would eventually become Rypple, we decided to follow a different approach. We built a simple prototype that allowed people to request anonymous feedback at work, posted it on the web, and gave it to a beta customer to try out. The product was completely free, and within days people began to experiment with it. We watched how they used it, took our findings back to the engineers, iterated, and then did the same thing again and again, until slowly, over time, the product we have today began to take shape.

What was happening here? It’s the first step of “Lean Startup” thinking in action — a step that crowd-sources opinions on product ideas when they’re small, malleable, and early, allowing them to be pruned and finessed before they go too far in the wrong direction. Based on a product design philosophy codified by Eric Ries in his seminal book “The Lean Startup,” the approach relies on a model of software development known as “agile.” Contrary to the traditional “waterfall” development model, where new code is collated over weeks or months and then released in a batch, agile allows for small, incremental changes to happen continuously, so the real reactions of users can be observed, collected, and incorporated into future designs.

Since Ries believes strongly that the Lean process can be learned and taught, I feel it can be extended to other disciplines, too. From my perspective, I believe that the “agile” principles can be effectively applied to the world of talent management and HR. If it’s true that we learn best in small, bite-size chunks, shouldn’t we be able to develop people more effectively using the same approach?

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