Dean's Lecture

The Lean Startup: Innovation Through Experimentation

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Eric Ries

The year 2011 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of Frederick Winslow Taylor's "Principles of Scientific Management." The tremendous material abundance we enjoy today is the result of the productivity revolution he unleashed by bringing the tools of science to the study of work itself. Management today is rigorous, scientific, and effective — at the production of physical goods.

In other areas, the picture is bleak, especially for new products. We fail spectacularly, in startups and big companies alike. Too often, we're building something nobody wants.

There is a movement that is trying to eradicate this disease. We are at the beginning of a second scientific management revolution that will bring science, rigor, and discipline to the process of innovation itself. It has already begun to transform the way startups are built around the world. It is called the Lean Startup.

All entrepreneurs face the same fundamental challenges:

  • How do we know if we’re making progress?
  • How do we know if customers will want what we’re building?
  • How do we know what kind of value we can create?

Answering these questions requires more than just disciplined thinking at the whiteboard. It requires the coordination of people. In other words, it requires management.

The Lean Startup is a management science for entrepreneurs of all kinds. It enables rapid customer-centric iteration. It helps startups test their vision before it's too late. It is a tool for people who want to change the world.

Eric Ries is the creator of the Lean Startup methodology and the author of the popular entrepreneurship blog "Startup Lessons Learned". He previously co-founded and served as Chief Technology Officer of IMVU. In 2007, BusinessWeek named Ries one of the Best Young Entrepreneurs of Tech and in 2009 he was honored with a TechFellow award in the category of Engineering Leadership. He serves on the advisory board of a number of technology startups, and has worked as a consultant to a number of startups, companies, and venture capital firms.

He is the co-author of several books including The Black Art of Java Game Programming (Waite Group Press, 1996). While an undergraduate at Yale University, he co-founded Catalyst Recruiting. Although Catalyst folded with the dot-com crash, Ries continued his entrepreneurial career as a Senior Software Engineer at, leading efforts in agile software development and user-generated content.

Last updated:

March 26, 2015