Startups: Don’t get caught up in a “high-level” disguised as lean hype (& why instead you should apply the “museum model”)

The “art” of getting things done without trying to square the circle

You see them everywhere in the web; From LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, forums…anywhere you look you’ll find them.

What I am talking about?

Ok let’s give you a hint!

After the Lean Startup phenomenon “came into play”, can you guess what one of its “byproducts” pop up like mushrooms?

Is it….

– Lean Startup Events

– Other entrepreneurship books that have as a basis the lean startup methodology

– Actual startups that being “launched” following the lean principles

Oops I forgot one…

– Lean Practitioners

So you might wonder; what’s wrong with that dude?

My reply- Nothing (per se…)

However, have you noticed the tendency of a few (yes don’t put them all in the same basket) so-called “Lean Practitioners” overcomplicating the lean “system”?

Not that I am any kind of expert on it, but my understanding is that lean (among others) is about “relentlessly eliminate anything that isn’t adding value” and I feel unnecessary overcomplicating things is not aligned with this principle.

As Tony Khuon puts it in a great post;

“When a composer overcomplicates things, we hear it.

When an architect overcomplicates things, we see it.

When a chef overcomplicates things, we taste it.”

And I’d add- when a startup founder overcomplicates things, s/he simply “go busted”!

So, on our today post we’ll outline the 5 elements that any founder needs to be concerned only about when building her startup, make the point why new entrepreneurs must not behave like they are running General Motors and finally conclude with the “museum model” and why it should be one of the first things on our to-do list.

Don’t act like you’re running General Electrics

Yes I know; as a new entrepreneur you can do one thousand things to get your idea out of the ground, you can “perform” numerous tests (or as they call them… experiments) but the question is; is this the best way to move forward?

The answer is simple- Of course NOT

Gökçe Sargut and Rita Gunther McGrath in an essay of them at Harvard Business Review pointing out that the level of complexity nowadays in businesses for a series of reasons has gone up (for more check out the actual article) and they are suggesting us “to learn to live with complexity” by taking certain strategic decisions.

Some sound advice there, but has nothing to do with us.

The reason why I bring this up is because although new entrepreneurs “get” that startups are completely different “creatures” from established businesses, some of them consciously or subconsciously behaving like they’re running General Electrics, caught up with stuff that don’t matter (especially on that early stage), distract themselves from the goal and unnecessary overcomplicating things.

2 golden Startup “Rules 

Rule #1: Gall’s law

For the regular readers, I know that I have highlighted Gall’s law so many times but it’s really fundamental.

According to the noted John Gall (author of the “Systemantics: How Systems Really Work and How They Fail”); “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system”.

So, if we all agree with that, it’s no-brainer that (at least in the beginning) we need to keep things really simple.

Is what the “older” generation describes as the KISS model (“KISS is an acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid”… The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided”).

 – Rule #2: The “Museum Model”

So, what the fu@# I am talking about?

As Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson note in their entrepreneurship book Bible; “You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That’s a warehouse. What makes a museum great is the stuff that’s not on the walls…..There’s an editing process. There’s a lot more stuff off the walls than on the walls…… It’s the stuff you leave out that matters”.

So, the underlying point of these 2 “rules” is the fact of the matter that the antidote to complexity is laser focus only on the absolute essentials for moving the needle on that very early stage.

So, I think it’s time to focus on what matters and take the razor.

The 5 part (that matter) of every business

According to Josh Kaufman a (real) business ultimately does 5 things

“Create and deliver something of value . . .

That other people want or need . . .

At a price they’re willing to pay . . .

In a way that satisfies the customer’s needs and expectations . . .

Business earn enough profit to make it worth it for the owners . . .”

We can complicate “things” as much as we like but at the end of the day if somebody “gets right” these 5 parts she’ll have a business that makes money.

Lean or no Lean there is no alternative for rolling up your sleeves and actually doing the work

And here is the other extreme- Quick fix “solutions”

Regardless which system/methodology you’ll apply and as much as some self-proclaimed “experts” try to convince us with some kind of voodoo-type of quick-fix “solutions” for the opposite, there is simply no alternative to rolling up your sleeves, get out there and actually doing the work.

Don’t know about you but I have never met even a single successful entrepreneur that claims she found this process (getting a business out of the ground) easy.

So what are the key points of our today’s post?

Today’s Key Points

– Don’t act like you’re running General Electrics

– Keep it (your system) simple

– Be a curator and not a warehouse

– Focus only on the 5 part of a business that matters

– Roll up your sleeves and actually do the work


I think that’s all from me for today. Check all our stories or our LLC advice.

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Product vs Services Startups: 6 key factors you should consider before making up your mind

All the best.


“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”

– Albert Einstein

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Thomas Wilson

Thomas Wilson

An accomplished business guru, our CEO holds a degree from Philadelphia's esteemed Fox School of Business, accredited by AACSB. With a knack for practicality, they've orchestrated the launch of diverse small enterprises and guided fellow entrepreneurs in optimizing their ventures. Trust their seasoned insights for invaluable advice tailored to new businesses and LLCs.