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Attitudes for Sustainable Lean Startup Teams

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Ramli John gave an ignite talk about the minimum viable attitudes for lean startup teams at the 2013 lean startup conference. According to Ramli there are three attitudes that help teams to run lean sustainable over time: humbleness, hunger and happiness.

InfoQ interviewed Ramli about attitudes in lean startup, the importance of happiness and how to deal with failure in lean startup.

InfoQ: In your lean startup talk you mentioned the minimum viable attitudes that lean startup team members should have. Why do you think that attitudes are so important in lean startup (and maybe also in life)?

Ramli: The Lean Startup process is not easy. I think high-level (the MVPs, the experiments and buzzwords) you can say that it's sexy. But after running experiments after experiments with little to no success, having the right attitudes can help teams get up and try again. Without the right attitudes, most would give up after a few failed experiments.

InfoQ: The three minimum viable attitudes are humbleness, hunger and happiness. Why did you pick these three?

Ramli: A CEO of a company once shared this to me as 3 things he looks for in employees. I borrowed it from him :). But I then realized, these three attitudes are not just great for hiring new employees, but also to maintain a highly effective, hypothesis-driven team.

InfoQ: A lean startup team has to be strong, passionate and stand behind the things that they do as you mentioned. How can they be humble at the same time?

Ramli: Humbleness is about admitting that you're wrong when you are wrong. It's admitting that you don't know everything and that you need help from people smarter than you. It doesn't mean that you can't brag once in awhile. I think that's key. Surround yourself by smarter people than you and you'll definitely be humbled :). And great entrepreneurs surround themselves with better, smarter and more driven people than them.

InfoQ: You mentioned that team members should be hungry and have a strong desire to go out and talk to their customers to find out what they really need. Can you give some examples of people who have done this and explain how it helped them?

Ramli: I started a new project Extreme Lean TV ( which shows examples of entrepreneurs who are hungry. An example is Clay Hebert who saved over $100K in development by talking to his customers. Another one is Jonathan Goldberg who went from idea to paying customers in 14 days.

InfoQ: As a lean startup you need to be able to deal with failure, for instance when your product ideas turn out to be wrong. How can happiness help you with that?

Ramli: Happiness doesn't mean having a fake smile on. It means having a positive attitude. You're right though. When products fail, it's tough to stay positive. I think that's where having a strong support network comes in, whether it's your family, close friends or team. I think your team needs to be a BIG part of your support network. If they're not happy, you're not happy. You see them everyday. Surround yourself by positive people.

InfoQ: Lean startups can be driven by 1 or 2 persons or by a team as you mentioned in your talk. Can you name some of the benefits of having a team driving it?

Ramli: To me a team of at least two is ideal to run the lean startup process. The problem with doing it by yourself is that you can be drinking your own kool aid. That's why you need to find people who complement your skills and perspective. I've written in my blog before that teams need to have healthy debates or risk the danger of group think.

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