Lean innovation and lean start-ups take their name and methodology from the lean manufacturing processes championed by the likes of Toyota.
Innovation is risky and full of unknowns whether it is within a start-up company or a small group within a massive multi-national. The lack of innovation in many companies is often said to be down to the fact that innovation programmes are only ever undertaken when not doing so would be even riskier for the company than the high risks associated with innovation.
People are often comforted by massive plans and strategies as it helps them to rationalise away the risk. However this has a side effect of locking the innovation up and fixing the trajectory which is deadly unless you are lucky enough to have been perfectly correct in your innovative idea from the outset.
One of the major issues in larger companies is that it is very hard to make an “innovation process” to go with all the other processes and procedures that companies introduce when they grow. Innovation needs to take a lot of inputs and mash them all together to create something, then assess it and repeat the process until a good idea is created. Successful innovation needs pace and freedom to change direction over and over again until it finds a successful path.
The lean innovation process with its rapid cycle of testing an idea with customers, refining it and iterating provides a framework to enable the real value of an idea to be extracted before any significant investment is made.