Do Lean Startups Reduce Personal Commitment?

At one of the Indianapolis Lean Startup Circle meetups, someone asked questions along the following lines (paraphrased):

Won’t using lean startup techniques reduce my commitment to an idea? If I can just walk away from something because I have not invested much in it, how do I know that I won’t give up too early?

I had a bit of cognitive dissonance about the question. At first, I thought the line of thinking was silly. After all, the whole reason I was there was to ensure that I didn’t go “all-in” on an idea with no validation. I responded intelligently at the time, but the question kind of gnawed at me.

As I thought about it the next day, there seemed to be logic to what he was saying. In ancient times, didn’t conquestors burn the boats at the shore to improve their troops’ desire to win the battle ahead? With no easy way to retreat, the thought goes, they can focus all of their energy on the task at hand. And what about pushing through the dip or other aphorisms for getting going when the going gets tough? What if you quit right before the finish line because some metric said to do so?

I think my arguments for validating the idea are:

One of the advantages is that you are not all-in. You can be more impartial about your particular implementation of a solution when you know that you have ways to learn about what a better solution is. If you don’t have a way of repeatably learning, you’re stuck in no-entrepreneur’s-land.

Personally, getting feedback and having early adopters is very empowering and motivating. I think that value is a multiplier of idea quality and execution. I’d rather be pretty sure that the idea itself was pretty good and ensure that I’m excited to work on it, thereby increasing the execution component. If you think ideas are cheap, then there’s an opportunity cost of pursuing one over another, because the cost is in the execution and there are always more ideas.

If the validation turns out cold, find another idea and find a better one to be committed to. Then commit. :)

Not sure there’s much more for me to say here, so I’ll leave it at that for now. What do you think? Is it better to go all-in?

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