How to Avoid Failing With Lean — It’s a System Mindset Problem

Rafael Chaves Lopes
6 min readJul 15, 2020
Photo by Li Lin on Unsplash

Why do large companies struggle with Lean Startup? The answer to this question can often depend on where you are considering the problem from.

Many experts have tried to address the question already. Some, very well, like Steve Blank in his recent interview with the MIT Sloan Review, others, not as much. But one thing is certain… I will not bore you with another shot at trying to do so.

Instead, this article is devoted to providing a more pragmatic approach to what large corporations must do to avoid failing with Lean Startup. While many have pointed at different reasons why the methodology has failed in large companies, such as GE, there’s still a consensus that it is valuable and effective, when correctly applied.

The Lean Startup works for successful startups, no one can deny that. The question now is what larger organizations can learn from this and implement to jumpstart their own innovation processes. That’s what I’m going to explain in this article.

Why Lean works so well in successful startups

The Lean Startup mindset was created specifically with startups in mind. According to Steve Blank, the philosophy stemmed from a realization that startups are not smaller versions of large companies. While this sounds simple enough now, hardly anyone was thinking that way.

Since startups are inherently different, they require different tools to achieve the unique outcomes only they are suited to. So, Lean provides startups with what they need to achieve success with limited resources and smaller teams.

But what makes the methodology so powerfully effective in successful startups boils down to two important factors. The first is that these startups, as described by prolific technology venture capitalist Gigi Levy-Weiss, are learning machines. The second is that through their iterative learning, they develop a system mindset that lets them get better at every turn and quickly too. Let’s look at each of these.

The learning organization

Levy-Weiss explains that: “there’s an underlying mechanism in iconic startups that often goes unseen: they are learning machines, constantly

Rafael Chaves Lopes

I help corporations become ambidextrous organizations, measure innoavtion, and increase idea-to-success ratio.