The New and Updated Running Lean Book

I just submitted my final revisions to O’Reilly for the printed version of Running Lean, which will come out in March 2012. While I had originally intended to “tidy up” the PDF version for print, I realized earlier this year that a complete rewrite might be necessary, which is exactly what I ended up doing.

Why rewrite the book?

A book like large software is never finished, only released.

The PDF version of Running Lean was targeted primarily at people like me: technical founders building web-based products. I was running my first company and on my fifth product at the time. Steve Blank’s book had inspired me: The Four Steps to the Epiphany, and the early works on the Lean Startup methodology by Eric Ries, and was rigorously applying and testing these principles on my latest product.

My goal was to create an actionable guide for other entrepreneurs taking these principles to practice within the context of web-based products. I wrote and self-published the PDF version iteratively using the same methodology outlined in the book.

However, since the PDF version came out in January 2011, the audience for the book grew beyond my prototypical early adopter, and I was repeatedly met with two kinds of feedback:

  1. “I can see how these techniques worked for your business, but they won’t work for me because I am building X.”
  2. “Even though I am building X, these techniques have greatly helped my business with only slight modifications.”

(where X ranged from software to hardware, B2C to B2B, and high-tech to low-tech).

I was curious and decided to explore further.

In the past year, I have actively sought opportunities to expose and test the ideas in the book with a wide range of businesses by way of running workshops, creating a newsletter, taking on mentor positions at several accelerators, and working closely with other entrepreneurs. I still remember being nervous when I delivered a workshop to a room full of biotech entrepreneurs. But each time, the results were positively encouraging.

Why traditional publishing?

My goal for the book never involved making a run for a bestseller list and/or pivoting to become a speaker/consultant — I still have the product bug. Rather, my goal was to build a platform to further the conversation on entrepreneurship, where the book would be one of many products.

A non-fiction book is a souvenir, just a vessel for the ideas themselves. You don’t want the ideas to get stuck in the book… you want them to spread.
-Seth Godin

As of this writing, I’ve sold just over 15,000 copies of the book. While I’d always been prepared to self-publish the book and had even started researching print-on-demand options, I was contacted by a major publisher in December 2010. Not only had they already reviewed the latest version out at the time, but they were interested in publishing the book as is.

I entertained the thought of using traditional publishing as a channel to potentially reach a different audience and spoke to a few other publishers. But what sealed the deal for me was hearing Eric Ries’ vision for creating an official Lean Startup series of books. It not only made sense for furthering the Lean Startup movement but also aligned well with my original goal.

So what’s new in this version?

The printed version of Running Lean aims to broaden the audience beyond web-based products. Even though many of these ideas came out of the high-tech startup world, I believe now that the principles they embody are universally applicable to any startup or product.

This is reflected in a completely new layout for the book — one that delineates meta-principles from tactics:

Other notable highlights

More concrete case-studies
I replaced the Lean Canvas meta case study (which some people found confusing) with a more complete example that follows throughout the book from ideation to exit. In addition, I’ve supplemented the text with several other smaller case studies from a wide range of products (high-tech to no-tech) that illustrate the universal applicability of these principles.

More field-tested techniques
The book outlines additional techniques for maximizing learning from customers, such as:
- how to get customers to an interview
- how to tell when your customers are lying to you
- how to get your customers to want to pay

Covers patterns for other business models
While I wrote Running Lean originally with a Software-as-a-Service context (which readily extends to a wide range of other types of products), I was frequently asked how one might adapt it to two other models in particular: a network effects product and a multisided (marketplace) product. I cover both of these in the book.

Updated with the latest thinking on Lean Startups
Finally, since I wrote the first version, Eric Ries published his book, The Lean Startup. Besides being the authoritative guide on Lean Startups (buy it now if you haven’t yet), the book also introduces several new and powerful concepts like Innovation Accounting and Engines of Growth that I have assimilated into the printed version.

Where do I get it?

The book will be published by O’Reilly and will be available in both print and eBook formats in March 2012.

Pre-order the book here*.

* As this is a major revision going through the publishing cycle, this version is not an automatic upgrade from the PDF version.

Why not? (Updated based on comments below)

Yes, I wrote the PDF version iteratively in 2-week cycles, but I declared the book released (final) with version 7. If you were an early access customer, you should have received an email from me dated February 7, 2010, stating just that.

There have been no incremental updates made to the book since then, and no promise for updates made to people who bought the book after that date.

From a timeline perspective, it was not until late summer (once Eric and O’Reilly were involved) that I even considered doing a rewrite for the reasons I outlined above. Because more than 20% of the book has changed and more than a year will have passed between versions, O’Reilly and I have decided to officially label this a Second Edition, which will hopefully serve to clarify the position of this update.

Thanks for your continued support, and here’s to your success in 2012!

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