The book's subheading is "A 'cheat sheet' to The Four Steps to the Epiphany," a different book by Steve Blank. As Patrick described to me recently, Steve's book is the bible on customer development practices but is thick and filled with tons of information that is handy as a reference but takes dedication to read from start to finish. Patrick's aim with his book was to distill the main concepts into an easily digestible introduction. I enjoyed reading Patrick's book, and it did fulfill its goal. I'm now motivated more than ever to try to read Steve's book soon.
I also was fortunate to recently attend a LeanLA meet-up where I got to meet other members of the community interested in lean start-up concepts (and hear from the founders of Sharethrough how they used lean concepts to build their business). The "Lean" movement, as I've recently learned, is basically combining customer development practices pioneered by Steve Blank with agile development concepts that have been gaining traction in the tech community over the last 5-10 years.
The core lessons I took away from the book were as follows. The book is short and sweet, so I won't spoil all the fun (no need to write a distillation of a distillation); go grab a copy yourself. It also has awesome case studies and templates of emails and cold calling example scripts that you probably won't use verbatim but illustrate the concepts really succinctly.
- Question your assumptions. The book calls it "Naive Thinking," and it's eerily similar to the Zen philosophy of "beginner's mind." I also liked how the book's authors tied in Taleb's similar viewpoints in The Black Swan. Make guesses about reality, but don't consider yourself ever right or having full understanding; always seek to disprove yourself and find evidence of how your thinking is not correct so you can learn and actually create products the world needs. As the book says, "The second most desired outcome is the realization that there is no market," and "separate the zeal of entrepreneurship from the blindness of hubris."
- Get out of the building. This relates closely to the first point. Speak in person with as many real customers as possible to understand if your assumptions and product are actually adding value. This is "designed to minimize your real and opportunity costs."
- Build a minimum viable product and validate it with your customers. This means not wasting time getting it perfect and working more towards getting eyeballs on it and constructive feedback rather than building something amazingly cool tech-wise. Your most likely initial customers will be early evangelists and tech enthusiasts; you will have to work hard and may need to adapt the model and product significantly to appeal to a wider audience, but you need to gain a good foothold among the early adopters who will be willing and interested in trying your product and giving feedback.
- Pivot to adapt your product as you learn new information. Through agile development concepts and continuous, quick feedback loops, you can take in new information you receive from customers and adapt what you have to suit the market better. In pivoting, you keep something constant (your foot that stays on the ground) and change some other aspect slightly based on what you learned (your foot that moves). In that way, you don't totally lose your balance or risk completely going down the wrong path.