Ash Maurya has been shaping the conversation of all things lean startup and product development for over a decade now. He’s the bestselling author of Running Lean and Scaling Lean, and the creator of the lean canvas, one of the most widely-used tools to visualize how the pieces of a new business fit together.
In this conversation, we go deep on where and how you can find problems worth solving—challenges worth your time. We explore the sequence of hidden milestones on the way to product-market fit, how to identify your true early adopters, and how to know what action to take when. We also cover foundational territory on jobs to be done (JTBD), which is one of my favorite frameworks to better understand what people actually need.
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Transcripts may contain typos. With some episodes lasting ~2 hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Andrew Skotzko 00:01:27 Ash, welcome to the show. How are you doing today?
Ash Maurya 00:01:31 I’m doing just great pleasure to be on.
Andrew Skotzko 00:01:33 Absolutely. I’m such a fan of your work. You and I have traded the occasional email for at least five years now. So it’s such a, it’s such a pleasure to, you know, actually get to spend some quality time together and really dive into your material. Um, you, I think I’ve said this before, but your work, uh, is up there with anybody. Who’s influenced my thinking, uh, among the most influential pieces of bodies of work on my thinking as like a product person and a person who thinks about putting new stuff in the world. So, uh, I’m just stoked your hair.
Ash Maurya 00:01:59 Oh, thanks for that. Yeah. It’s going to be a blast.
Andrew Skotzko 00:02:02 Yeah, absolutely. So one of the places I always like to start is just getting, you know, getting to know you a little bit better, right? So you’ve been, you’ve been an author in this space for like a decade now, but even before that, I know you were building things of your own and I’m just so curious. What was the moment where you realized I need to get this out of my head and, and share this with the world. Was there a moment like that, or it just became very clear to you?
Ash Maurya 00:02:23 I would say that I, I started with blog posting. That’s how I got into writing. Um, and I found that every time I wrote a blog post, it clarified my own thinking, but I wrote for myself, I mean there happened to be an audience, but it was really more for me, me writing to get things out there. And if it helps someone that’s great, but it was really more of a very personal thing at the beginning. Um, but the moment when it became about others, I, I can’t really put a date to it. But I think just as with any, anyone who puts any work out there, including this podcast, once you build an audience, you can help be influenced by them. Um, and so seeing the reaction there, um, got me, there was a trigger in my head that said, I’m not the only one going through this journey. There are lots of people that are hitting the same questions, roadblocks fears, concerns, wanting to know how to put this to practice. And that just became very exciting. The timing was also great. That was also when they were meetups being formed around the lean startup. And so they were easy places that one could go to and find like-minded people and just go and have a conversation and geek out about this stuff. So all of that taken together is, um, just caught Cockney started.
Andrew Skotzko 00:03:36 Yeah, no, I remember, I think I first was it, was it like 2009 or 10 when you started on that process? Does that sound right to you
Ash Maurya 00:03:43 Late 2009? Yeah, so like, I, I mean, that’s very vivid cause I can, that was when I started this particular blog post and that’s the first post there. So it was like, I think October, 2009.
Andrew Skotzko 00:03:53 Yeah, no, cause I was sitting here thinking about like, when did I first come across your stuff? And I think it, because that was right when I was getting into all of this and you were, I think one of the first people whose material I came across, I think I, I remember buying like your early PDF or something and emailing you like a billion questions that you were very gracious that actually wrote me back. But yeah, no, I was looking for this the other day. I was like, wait a minute. I remember this. Uh, because you’re right. That was that really fun period. Like before, like the quote lean startup was a thing and there was just basically a bunch of us go into meetup groups and like hanging out over, you know, over a beer or a coffee and just talking about this stuff. So man, what a, what a crazy journey it’s been, how has it evolved in that time?
Ash Maurya 00:04:32 So I would say that the practice has certainly evolved. I mean, one, a lot of principals are out there at the same time as with anything it starts out rather pure. And then just with the practice, it evolves sometimes in good directions sometimes in maybe not so good directions. And so it’s, I think all par for the course, you can take any, any framework or mythology, whether it’s agile or anything like that. And you’ll kind of have that similar journey. There’s the initial momentum and hype curve. And that’s was those early days where everyone was talking about this, still lots of core principles, a lot of emphasis or exploration on how, how tos and then, you know, there’s this group of people doing this, everyone else kind of ignores you and say that this is just nothing. And then everyone kind of joins the party.
Ash Maurya 00:05:19 And then that’s when it just becomes another, another challenge where everyone now thinks they know that they understand the principles, they know how to do it. And like I said, and then the evolution really happened. So that’s just kind of our four chorus with any, any framework. And this one is no different. Uh, so certainly lots of things have changed like basic definitions, things like MVP, for example, is one of those things where you can go on your favorite platform, LinkedIn, even Twitter, and you will find the, I still see this every other day, there’s a new MBA, something in the minimum desirable or feasible or sustainable product and people coming up with their takes of it, which is all good. And so we wanted to have that conversation, but it’s just seems like it’s Dasia where we have this, these cycles every,
Andrew Skotzko 00:06:06 Yeah. It’s like we forget we did this five years ago and then we’re like, oh, let’s cool. Actually, that was better. Anyways, you’re one of the few people I’ve seen really holistically integrate. This is the jobs to be done framework. Um, and you know, I’ve seen a lot of different takes on that framework over the years, whether it’s Bob work, you know, or Alan Clemmons or any, any of these things. But I think you’re the, I think you’re the only person I’ve seen actually like fully integrate that into a playbook for early stage work. Um, which I, I certainly appreciate it. So talk to me about the innovator’s gift. Like if I don’t know what that is, what is the innovator’s gift? Could you just define that for the listener?
Ash Maurya 00:06:42 Yeah. So when we are charged with building a better product, the big million or a billion dollar question is what does better really mean? And a lot of us entrepreneurs, innovators, product people define it with respect to our solution. So we almost say I’m going to build X what’s better about X. And then we start imagining the customer who will use it. The problem with that is that many times that’s not how the customer views the world. So the idea of the innovator’s gift is this realization that in order to build something better, it has to be better with respect to something. And that’s where the existing solution lives. And so the other way of saying this is that when we are trying to build a new, innovative product, we want an innovative solution, a new way to build the thing or solve, you know, get the job done.
Ash Maurya 00:07:29 We don’t want an innovative problem. If the problem is new and something your customer doesn’t know or understand, that’s going to get you into trouble because they’re just not going to want your product. So the idea of the innovator’s gift is let’s not, let’s, let’s not start with chasing new problems. We need to actually find old existing problems that people are currently struggling with. And the way you do that is by studying their old existing solutions to get the job done. And that’s where we find true problems worth solving. That’s where we find these switching moments where Uber comes along and all of a sudden they break taxis or Tesla comes along and all of a sudden they break sports cars for people because Tesla’s can go fast and they’re green. Right? So that kind of thinking is what the innovator’s gift is about.
Andrew Skotzko 00:08:17 Yeah. It seems like it’s almost sort of an innovation or product application of that what’s that old writing saw about. Like there’s no new things. There’s just old things set in new ways. So one of the things that I’m, I’m really that I love that I heard you talk about in a, I think a webinar of yours that I was on like a year ago, right? Depth of the pandemic everyone’s freaking out. This is like early 20, 21. And you were talking a lot at that time about, uh, switching triggers. So I’d love you to just lay again, lay it just a little bit of a conceptual foundation here. So we, so the listeners with us of like just really quick, what is the switching trigger and like, are there different times that we need to be aware of?
Ash Maurya 00:08:55 Yeah. So if we, again, take that idea of the innovator’s gift, the basic premise is that we don’t actually buy a new product. We switch from something old to something new. And the switching trigger is what prompts that action. And there can be many different kinds of switching triggers. So pandemic, the one you just mentioned here is a global is probably the biggest switching trigger. We have all lived through in our lifetimes and right. Some of us, you know, we’re still going through it. Um, but it changed the world. So when there’s something like a pandemic comes along, it changes the world. It breaks a lot of all the ways of doing things from how we work, how we go to school, um, how we eat, how we go to restaurants, all of those things break. And all of a sudden people are now more open to behavior change. They’re still want the desired outcome, which is, I need to do all those things. How we do it is where the opportunity in that crisis is where we find these opportunities. Um, so that’s kind of the basic definition of switching triggers. And then there are various kind of, uh, types of them as you, as you described, as, as you’ve mentioned.
Andrew Skotzko 00:09:58 So you’re talking about these different kinds of switching triggers our job isn’t to make a new thing. Our job is to cause a switch. And so it seems like this is really a central idea that we’ve got to understand. So I guess the question that leaves me with is how do we find like some of the switching triggers super obvious, right? You have a pandemic, it broke, it broke the status quo. Okay. That happens. But that is not always, thank God. That’s not always the case. Um, but so in the case of a, like less in our face switching trigger, how do you, or where you don’t know it, like let’s say somebody has a product idea. How do they go about actually finding the trigger? Like how do they figure out what it is that they need to work with there if they don’t already know?
Ash Maurya 00:10:35 So some, so we are looking for something changing in the world that can be at a macro level. So pandemic is one of those. And even along those lines, there can be kind of smaller events. Of course they can be things like, um, new, new, new inventions. It could be some new technology. You know, we are all into this NFT world right now, and that’s kind of a thing that’s happening and it’s changing at least some people’s behaviors or how they might, they might kind of interact with that. And so exploring that further, but those are the examples of things, whether they are, um, inventions, you know, the internet, when it hit the scene was another one of those that of course was a massive, massive change, but it started small. It didn’t start changing everything all at once. Um, but kind of those kinds of things are, are, are places we can look.
Ash Maurya 00:11:22 But the really the best way I find is to go and do some discovery work. So this is where, when we bring this idea of the job to be done, whenever I work with a team that has an idea, I try to have them list out some existing ways that their customers could currently try to do this thing. And on our, on the lean canvas box, that would be the existing alternative box. So let’s figure out, you know, when, uh, when people need to get this job done, what are the things they currently reach for and going and exploring how they are picking and choosing and deciding which ones to pick will often reveal those triggering events. Um, these could be in the customer’s world, things that are changing. So there, again, a few things we can kind of break them into three main categories that it could be bad experiences.
Ash Maurya 00:12:15 So they could be in a situation where their all solution is not working as it used to because of things that have happened. And uncovering those things that have happened is the bad experience switching trigger. Um, the other one might be a change of circumstance. So they may have, uh, maybe a good example of this is since we talked about sports car, they’ve got a nice two-seater sports car, but they, the couple then, uh, learns that they’re expecting. So all of a sudden they need more space for the baby. And so that’s an example of a change in circumstance, switching trigger. Um, and then the last one is an awareness one. And so these could be, as people are moving through different points in their life, they may have different things happen, maybe at the doctor’s office, a diagnosis, um, good are bad. You know, those kinds of news that we hear about the problem or the, the event is rather neutral, but what we do with it could lead to that kind of a switching trigger. So those kinds of figures are oftentimes hidden below this below the surface. We don’t really know that. And so I find that having a conversation with a, with a potential customer that you want to serve, and not just one, but many such conversations reveal these events like, like dominoes that make one thing fall after the other, uh, and lead them down this path of wanting a new product. And that’s where the innovation opportunity lies.
Andrew Skotzko 00:13:37 I think this is where your, your tool of the customer forces canvas comes into play. Right.
Ash Maurya 00:13:42 That’s exactly right. So talk
Andrew Skotzko 00:13:43 To me a little bit about that. W what is that? If I’m not already familiar with that, what is it, how do I use it? And then we’ll talk a little, I want to really get into some of the, let’s make this like very tactical for people, because I think that’s one of the real strengths of your work is you seem to be great at going from the abstract to the, to the, like, here’s what to do.
Ash Maurya 00:13:59 So the best way I find it described the customer forces, it is, it is a customer journey map. So we all maybe know, at least conceptually know what a customer journey is, a buyer journey. So how, how they might go through a series of steps to pick and choose a product and consume a product, decide to keep it what’s different. Is that rather than building a multi page customer journey map with a bunch of things happening, we try to summarize that into these forces and these forces are what’s causing customers to do certain things. Um, so customer is happily moving along and it’s like a once upon a time story there they’re happily moving along. Maybe I’ll even tell one of those, or maybe they’re meeting some, some, some friends in a bar. Um, they realize that two out of the three friends just recently bought a new car.
Ash Maurya 00:14:46 And they’re so happy with they’re talking about all the new features that the car has. I don’t know about you, but if I was in that room, all of a sudden my car, which was just fine before that conversation starts to feel a little bit old, like you get this, this, this envy, and you may want to want to buy a car. So that’s kind of how that story might begin. And that would be the planting of the switching trigger. Now, at that point, people don’t immediately, of course, go out and buy a car, but this is where we get into this passive looking stage. And when we’re in passive looking, we might start to notice billboards. We might start to hear ads on the radio that were always there. We just have this, this perceptual view that, that just gets a bit more acute.
Ash Maurya 00:15:25 Um, so we started paying attention to these things, still not deciding to buy the car. Um, the following week we realized that our car breaks down and this isn’t the first time it’s actually happened. It had happened a month before we take it in for a checkup. We realize we need major repairs. And so that’s an example of the next trigger. So these kinds of triggers are, are occurring. And so we summarize those into things that are pushing the customer towards making a change. So I’ve got this old car now in my head, I’m seeing these forces stack that pushes pushing me towards a new car. Um, I might start deciding which kind of car I’m looking for. Um, maybe I want an electric car. So I go and start looking at those. Each of those products I consider has a pull to them. So the push is pushing me to make a change.
Ash Maurya 00:16:13 The pull is pulling me words this top of the hill, if you kind of visualize, I’m trying to get to my destination and I might consider multiple products along the way, and each will have a different strength of pole. Um, and if that, if they’re all that easy, we would just be buying lots of products that are these negative forces as well. So just like climbing a hill, um, there’s the push and the pull that kind of makes us go up the hill, but then we have to deal with inertia and friction. Um, and I’ll define those. So inertia is essentially our unwillingness to change. Um, so if we think about why wouldn’t I want to buy a car? Well, I have an existing car. Yes, it’s old, but do I really just need to go out and buy a new car? So that comfort of the old is where we want to just stay back and not do anything.
Ash Maurya 00:16:59 Um, so many times we, we, we get overwhelmed by inertia and that’s why we don’t actually move forward with the buying decisions. And so that’s one of those negative forces. The other one is friction. As we imagine this new car, if I am thinking of getting an electric car, I get all kinds of anxieties. Like, where will I charge this? Do I have enough? Uh, w is it going to be enough to get me around town? Are there enough charging stations and then price, you know, can I really afford this car loans? All of those kinds of things are frictional forces that also keep me from moving forward so we can break it into those forces into four forces that act on every decision we make about products. There’s the push, there’s the pull there’s in the Russia, and then there’s fiction. And then we unpack those forces. We can better understand how people make at different points in that buyer journey and which forces are, are driving them towards either moving forward or not. And that helps a lot with marketing sales, designing better products.
Andrew Skotzko 00:18:01 How do you actually go about finding that stuff? I mean, you know, the, the pithy answers like, well, just go talk to people, but, you know, I think a lot, one of the things I’ve picked up from your work is like, there is actually a bit of a sequencing to this that that matters. Uh, and it’s not quite that simple. And I think, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I think you might say that one can waste a lot of time and cycles by either doing this too soon, uh, or, or doing it too late. So how do you think about that? Or how do you guide people in that, uh, in that pursuit as they’re trying to actually find these things?
Ash Maurya 00:18:30 Yeah, so it does start with customer conversations, but all the ways that the challenge with talking to customers is knowing a bit how to do it. Um, so we, we oftentimes, uh, I guess even before talking to customers, I see a lot of, uh, teams out there that just want to build some surveys and go in and, and run these surveys or do some focus groups. The challenge with surveys is surveys are good validation tools for confirming really what you already know. You want to just at scale, be able to say these questions I have do these answers, the answers that I get back to, they kind of correlate with what I’m generally thinking in the discovery work that we’re talking about discovery by definition requires learning things, insights that we don’t know, and that’s where the conversations help. Um, the other trap people fall into is let’s just go and talk to customers and ask them what they want.
Ash Maurya 00:19:22 And this is where again, customers will usually give us a bunch of surface solutions or things that they may think they want. But when we actually go in and build this, we have all probably lived through that. Um, look at a backlog of features you get from your customers. And many of them are really just solutions, disguise those problems. And the sad part is when you even build them for your customers, they’re like, oh, that’s not what I really wanted. Maybe go do this instead. So it’s just a wild goose chase. And I’ve been on that treadmill many, many times. So that’s, that’s, that’s why I bring that up. Um, so the approach that we want to take, and this is where, why I’m so excited and why, why jobs to be done kind of surface into a lot of, I found its way into a lot of the work that I do is that it’s a backdoor to figuring out what people actually struggle with.
Ash Maurya 00:20:10 So when we are doing these conversations, we don’t want to even lead with problems. We don’t want to say, do you have problem X or Y we actually want to lead with what are people trying to get done? Like what, what, when there’s a situation that occurs when it’s, uh, you know, uh, when, when, when something happens in their world and they are trying to get this job done or trying to get this outcome, where are they going? What are they doing? And that’s when the forces start to play on, you actually see them in the conversation. And that’s, that’s the process that we follow. So running, um, just half a dozen to a dozen of those interviews is a very effective way of understanding all the different stories, all the different ways that people are trying to get this thing done. Um, and that’s when you can go back and say, here’s a cluster of things that seems interesting. And then we put on our entrepreneurial hat on and try to design solutions and then this whole process for how we might test that afterwards.
Andrew Skotzko 00:21:09 Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. The, I guess the question I have, you know, I’ve, I’ve read and, and gone at least reasonably into the jobs to be done material, and I’ve done some of it myself in terms of practice, but I would not consider, I do not consider myself an expert on it. And one thing I’ve noticed is that it’s a really great conceptual model. Right? Most people I talked to, they get it pretty quickly, but a lot of people really struggle to do it. And I’m curious, like, how do you like to do it? How do you actually like to conduct these interviews? Do you have a certain methodology or interview approach you use?
Ash Maurya 00:21:42 Yeah. So jobs could be, that has a little bit, I like to describe it as a magic trick. You know, it seems very obvious once, you know, the secret, um, not, not the secret of how to do it, but once you know, the inside, you’re trying to get in those of you that are familiar with jobs to be done. There’s the famous milkshake study. There are many of these things you can go in and look at, if you don’t know what that is, just Google jobs to be done, milkshake study.
Andrew Skotzko 00:22:01 And, and for the listener, we’ll link to all of this stuff in the show notes. So everything has us talking about that will also be linked. So you can just kind of check it out that way too.
Ash Maurya 00:22:09 Awesome. Great. Um, so if you actually look at that, there are some pretty, uh, irrational insights that, that this team uncovers. And once you know, it, it almost seems like obvious in hindsight, and that’s the challenge with all these jobs to be done pieces. And what I actually saw in the body of work, a lot of the thought leaders that you just mentioned, um, were sharing all these amazing stories and that I wanted to do those kinds of things. We want to understand more of the, how to do it, or how you actually do it. So the best way that I found to run the interviews is almost to use those forces as a mental model, kind of in the back of your head. So the push pull inertia friction, and then think of the customer journey as a timeline. So we are trying to figure out what are a series of events that are happening to customers that are shaping their decisions along the way.
Ash Maurya 00:22:59 And from those two models, we build a bit of a story arc or a narrative for how to conduct the interviews. This is where I’m not very big on, on scripting these interviews, because we don’t know which questions we need to be able to ask. But I do like to start with a handful of questions that can spring the conversation. So if I knew that somebody just joined a new gym, we’ll start there and just say, oh, you joined this gym just might like an interview. Or you then want to try to almost take a investigative reporter, a journalist, you know, movie producer type of a frame and say, scene by scene. Let’s try to figure out what happened. So you joined this gym, you know, what day was it? Where did you buy? You know, how did you buy this? Were you alone? And then let’s kind of work backwards to what was that first domino that tipped maybe they got on a weighing scale and realized they were a few pounds heavier, um, you know, maybe something else happened.
Ash Maurya 00:23:52 So we want to understand like what led that, and that’s just how we run the conversation. So it’s a very casual interview, much like this one where you can just unpack everything that happened. Um, and then we, post-process all of that into this customer forces canvas. So we use that as a guide to say, w w where were all these forces and how do they, what was that interplay of forces and the magic and all of this is when you go and have those half a dozen to a dozen conversations, the story started running into each other. Yes, there are many reasons why people might join a gym initially, um, for different goals, but there aren’t an infinite number of them that are usually a top three to five, from my experience of stories that you will hear on what caused somebody to go join the gym. And there’s a, there’s usually a top three to five of types of gyms that people pay. And once you start to see these patterns, that’s when you begin to see these jobs based clusters of people that you can potentially serve. And then again, that, that helps in prioritizing where to focus.
Andrew Skotzko 00:24:55 One of the things that I’m hoping you can help me and a listener with is understanding, I’m going to frame it this way. Kind of like which tool when they can be difficult when you’re in those early stages and things are chaotic and confusing to think about, like, to orient yourself and to say like, okay, like, where am I, where do I need to go to next? What’s the next thing I need to do, et cetera. So I’m hoping you can help me contextualize this a little bit for, for myself, selfishly, but also for the listener. So for example, um, there’s another interview approach I’ve heard, I’ve read, you read some of your material on, in the past that I think you call the existing alternative interview. So for example, like how is that different than the kind of interview you’re talking about now, both in terms of what you do with the interview, and also when you do that interview, and maybe also why you do that interview sure. To throw it like five questions at once out of you.
Ash Maurya 00:25:47 Yeah. I will see you see how it, how we can, we can get, get through all that
Andrew Skotzko 00:25:50 For those, or this is bad interviewing technique. Just, I wouldn’t call myself out. This is not how you do a good interview, but it was a jumbled mess in my head, but maybe Ash consort sort me out.
Ash Maurya 00:25:58 Um, well, the first thing I would say is that the existing alternative interview, as opposed to say a triggering event interview are other are the two types of interviews that I generally talk about the way we run them are still, the goal is the same. We are trying to unpack the journey that the customer went. And so maybe I’ll explain why, why they’re named different. Sometimes when you have an idea, we know what the triggering events are like. You know, we talked about the pandemic. We know that this pandemic thing is happening and it’s causing a lot of disruption. So we might say, you know, this is happening. Let’s go and find people affected by this. And again, that’s an easier thing, but maybe they go into a particular subset of customers. Let’s go like the, the, the nature of work let’s go and find companies that would normally work in person.
Ash Maurya 00:26:45 Now that they’re working remotely, let’s go and see how they’re struggling. Right? So we start with a pandemic and then we are going, and just asking people in this, in this group, how are they trying to get that done? So that’s kind of more on the framing. Um, other times we may start with an existing alternative. So sometimes the triggering events are, are, are easy to identify, but they’re hard to go and find that they’re not that actionable. Cause we can find people just because they have this trigger because it happens on their head and we don’t have an evidence. We don’t have any evidence of it. So maybe an example that I can share there is how do you find a new startup founder? Right? So we know that they had to have an idea. They maybe are working on something, but what do I look for?
Ash Maurya 00:27:29 Right. And that’s where the existing alternatives can help. So when they start a founder has a new idea, maybe they’re going to a meetup group. And so if I go and find, if I just go to the grocery store, I’m not going to find that startup founder. But if I go to a meetup group where they’re talking about starting up, they may end up, they may, they may be there. Um, so we might start with the existing alternative. And that’s where the framing, that’s how we start that framing, which is you joined this meetup group. What were you looking? You know, what were you looking to accomplish? And then how did you learn about it? And then we can just start unpacking and packing those forces. You may not be a meetup group. They may have bought a course and bought a book. So this is where we start looking at complimentary existing alternatives that they would have considered and maybe purchased. And that creates, that gives us a place to go and find the people politely.
Andrew Skotzko 00:28:18 So it sounds like, you know, at the end of the day, we want to understand both the triggers as well as the, the existing alternatives to really understand our customer better. But which tool we use will depend on kind of where we’re starting from. So if we, if we have an idea or for example, if we have, if we know the trigger, like we know that the pandemic change things, okay, we don’t need to go do the trigger interview because we know what the trigger is. We can do. Now we can do the existing alternative interview to figure out like, well, what are you doing about that? But, or alternatively, it might be inverted where we know that someone joined a gym, but we want to understand the forces that led to that. And so then we would do more of the customer forces type interviews that am I understanding that, right?
Ash Maurya 00:28:56 Yeah. That’s, that’s exactly right. Yep.
Andrew Skotzko 00:28:59 Okay. That makes sense. Correct me if I’m wrong, Ash, but I think I’ve heard you describe, I think you have a very particular definition of what an early adopter is. How should we think about what an early adopter actually is as opposed to this sort of fuzzy concept of an early air quotes early adopter?
Ash Maurya 00:29:16 Yeah, so, so that’s, that’s actually a big one because a lot of people, when we are asked to do, to look like when they’re asked to define an early adopters, start layering on a whole bunch of avatar and persona type stuff, you know, let’s start thinking of their age, their gender. And we start like doing the classic customer segmentation. The danger with that kind of approach is that you may have too many distinguishing characteristics where it becomes harder to find if you’re trying to find the early adopter, it comes harder and more expensive to try to find enough of them. Um, so the art of early adopter definition in my opinion, is not trying to find the most specific distinguishing characteristics, but the least specific distinguishing characteristics that also correlate with them buying or wanting to buy your product. Um, and so it’s kind of a counterintuitive way at coming at it because we’re always taught, you know, go narrow and go, go really specific.
Ash Maurya 00:30:12 But the party after recognizes that at the very beginning, we don’t know much of anything about who our ideal customers are. And so the more narrow you go, the more chances are you’re just going to be wrong or are find a small hill. Right? So if I, the examples that I obviously worked with a lot of entrepreneurs, if we stay stuck in the stereotypical two guys in a garage in Silicon valley, as a definition of an, of an entrepreneur, I could go to Silicon valley and actually find those entrepreneurs and said, see, I was right. This is where all the entrepreneurs are, but of course missed a mountain of entrepreneurs that are all around the world, transcend gender, age geography, right? And so it’s a much, much bigger mountain of an opportunity that I would just completely miss out on. So that’s the danger. When we, we try to go so narrow and find that, that early adopter based on, you know, those, those many, uh, uh, criteria.
Ash Maurya 00:31:05 So the one thing that I find that all early adopters have in common is that they have to have taken action. And that’s what we’re really looking for. So in those, that customer journey story, they all had to have gotten triggered and everyone gets triggered. You know, like the pandemic triggers different people at different times, but early adopters are different in that they took some action as a result of it. So when we are trying to find, say, early adopters for video conferencing, triggering event happens, a lot of us look at it. A lot of us say, I wish I could do all these things. And then a lot of us do nothing. The only adopters are the ones who start taking that next action. So if we can find them going into that passive looking stage or active looking stage, or buying and consumption, consuming phase, those are going to be where you find a potential early adopters.
Ash Maurya 00:31:51 Now it gets a bit tricky because we don’t quite know where our entry could be. So if you think of it as a timeline, people will, will start looking for products are trying products and based on where, which problem you’re solving your entry point might be while they are looking for a new product while they’re in that triggered mode and looking for a solution that’s where if you showed up and said, Hey, I’m better than everyone else. They all buy what you have. Um, it could be that they have to use something to realize that it doesn’t work before they consider your product. And it sounds weird, but we have all been there where we go and buy the more popular solution and then realize that there actually has, it actually has problems that, that are, uh, things that are not going to work for us. And we had to gone through that journey. So it’s part of the discovery is figuring out where does that ideal entry point. And then that’s when the early adopter shapes, uh, you know, get shaped up in a much, much more clear fashion,
Andrew Skotzko 00:32:50 Let’s say, early adopters share a triggering event and basically a job to be done. So they, you know, they sort of have a, the journey is book-ended similarly, right? Like they started here, they got triggered in a way, and they’re, they’re trying to go to the same kind of outcome. And then there’s, uh, presumably some, some shared, um, existing alternatives along the way. The thing I was trying to understand was, okay, so there’s these different phases of that journey and what do I do with that knowledge once I have it. And I think one of the things that I’m hearing you say here, and please correct me, is that if you know the phases, you, you can find the people much more easily, right. If you know that this is the story, like, you know where to go look for these people, whereas if you don’t have that, it’s, it’s like, uh, you know, you’re spinning, you’re spinning around in circles. Like where do you even go?
Ash Maurya 00:33:35 Yeah, that’s exactly right. And, and I’ll maybe share a concrete example that might help some, so one of the, the, the products that I did, um, work on in that 2010 timeframe as well, it wasn’t analytics product. Um, and it was targeted at startups. And we eventually landed with our early adopter definition as being a tech founder three months after launch. And so that kind of sounds very way, like three months after launch, why three months, um, and that’s because it took that long for them to hit the problem that we were trying to solve. And so we needed not just, if you’d just gone after tech founders, um, they would have been too early, too late. And that’s what I mean by that nuanced definition of the early adopter. Um, and so I’ll kind of explain kind of their journey. So this is our product was designed to prevent, um, I guess, to help, help startup founders make sense of their metrics.
Ash Maurya 00:34:26 Um, we may all that experienced metrics. Uh, we live in a world today where we can measure almost anything if you have a digital product, but this challenge, this user cycle. Exactly. Yeah. So it’s an actual product that I worked on, but we were trying to do a lot getting to actionable insights with less with fewer metrics. And the problem we were trying to solve was the drowning problem. So we, uh, so if you look at that to start a founder, they launch a product emotion, really optimistic, you know, very excited new product launch. Uh, but it takes only a few weeks or maybe a month for them to realize that no one’s buying their product. Conversion rates are low, they’re getting lots of signups, but maybe no one’s activating the ones purchasing at the end of the month. And so they get all depressed.
Ash Maurya 00:35:09 What do they do? They start investing in metrics. So they may put Google analytics. I may put Mixpanel and can kind of list all the names out there. Um, and this is again, back in 2010, many of these products have gotten to do what we were trying to do back then, but back then, not many of them were we’re doing this, but I’ll just describe the timeline. So as they start to layer on these products, that realization they get is we’re not getting clearer on what’s broken. We know that no one’s buying. That was not anything new. We just don’t know why. And that’s what our product helped people get to. Had. We gone there in the very beginning and said, use us. We are the startup, and we help you figure out why that would have in some ways, not caused a switch because people would go and pick the cheaper, you know, Google analytics being free, um, the more popular solutions.
Ash Maurya 00:35:57 And so we had to have them go through that two months cycle month, one to implement these solutions months, to realize that we’re now drowning in numbers as a new problem, that we are struggling with not more numbers, but we wanted to get to some actions, some actionable metrics. And that was our unique value proposition. So we kind of waited. And so we would just go out. And even when we people would ask us about user cycle, we had created this little, um, kind of intake list. We would ask them, have you launched, have you not launched? And we could almost predict with pretty, pretty good certainty that if they met our criteria, we had three questions we asked. And if they said yes to all three, that only then would, they would be show them a demo. And our conversion rates were very high to a trial. It was like 90%. Uh, at that point,
Andrew Skotzko 00:36:41 This is a really great pivot point. I want to spend some time talking about kind of traction roadmaps and, and the way that people who are getting started can think about this journey that they are undertaking. Um, and that’s, I, you know, ironically, you’re just talking about these startup founders going through that first few months of the journey, but I’d love you to maybe start by framing some of the big milestones and defining them. And then let’s talk about how one thinks about mapping out that, um, so maybe you could start by laying out some of the big milestones, like the, the, some of the, the customer problem fit and so on and so forth.
Ash Maurya 00:37:13 Sure. I would say that the, the first significant milestone that, that, um, lots of startups like to think about is product market fit. And for a lot of startups, that’s hard to quantify, which is part of the problem, but they kind of have a qualitative field. That’s when the hockey stick hits this inflection point where the product just starts selling like crazy. You’re getting your customers come through the door. And so we kind of know it, we can actually feel it, but the challenge that I saw, a lot of people struggle with is know how to measure it. And that’s where this traction roadmap kind of helps it. We start by framing that milestone, because if you don’t quite know what product market fit is, the strategy you use is going to be just all over the place. Do you know whether you should shift into growth mode or still stay in product mode?
Ash Maurya 00:38:02 We don’t quite know what that transition is. So that’s the struggle that I saw. Um, lots of founders struggle with. And then what we have done further is taken that product market fit point, which generally is about two years on average, to get to for many, for most products. Uh, but we break that journey down into a series of sub milestones, as you were starting to describe. So before product market fit, we started talking about a smaller version of product market fit, which you might think of as just solution customer fit, you building MVP and giving it to a customer, a handful of customers and them saying thumbs up. This is great. And then even prior to that, we talk about problem solution fit, which is even knowing what to build. If you don’t quite have the right problem to solve, the solution is not going to matter.
Ash Maurya 00:38:52 So we can again go and take some of these, uh, the discovery process I was describing with the customer forces to help frame the problems that we should go after. Um, and then even prior to that, we’re big fans of business model fit. Is that even before doing anything, you want to make sure that it’s going to be worthwhile at the end. I’ve seen too many people and myself included where we just rush out the building. We find customers we’ve built an MVP, and then six or nine months later, we realized that, oh, the market was not as big as we thought. And the sad news there is that you didn’t have to wait six or nine months to hit that realization. Had we done some business modeling, even on paper in the very early, early phases of the project, you would have even have shown that, okay, this is not maybe the right right path to go down. Um, so business, if you work in a forward business model fit, then problem solution fit solution customer product market.
Andrew Skotzko 00:39:48 That makes perfect sense. And I can attest from my own experience. Um, you know, one of the things I’ve really benefited from is the tooling that you all have built in. Again, like we’re gonna have links to all this in the show notes for the listener, but I highly recommend if you have not actually tried the, the lean stack tooling, go sign up for a free account, give it a go. It’ll like, make us all very concrete very quickly. Um, but one of the things that I found so helpful about your, your work and, you know, not just the concepts, but the tools was that it helped me save a bunch of time, like you’re pointing to, right. Like if I, if like I can beat on a model on paper for a day and realize like, oh man, even if we crush it in this model, it’s just not going to, there’s just not enough meat on that bone.
Andrew Skotzko 00:40:30 Like, it’s just not going to be the kind of business that we aspire to have then like, okay, well then before we go spend, you know, six months of our lives on this, like let’s do something a little different. So I, I really appreciate that because I think what it sounds like you responded to in a way was, you know, Steve blank came in so hard and lean, you know, lean startup came in so hard with the drum beat of, you know, get out of the building, get out of the building, get out of the building, which was the right thing because everyone was spending way too much time in the building. Uh, but then we almost like over-corrected and threw out all modeling and it’s like, well, okay, hold on. A little bit of modeling can go a long way. We just don’t need like 30 page business plan. So I appreciated that you kind of like brought us back with, you know, brought us back a little, the pendulum back just a little bit, uh, was that what you intended to do? Or how did you see that?
Ash Maurya 00:41:17 So it’s so it was not, it was not intended. I said, as I mentioned, I was, I was one of those who wanted to rush out the building because all the, as you said, all the answers are out there. So to go out and figure it out along the way. But as I did that, I found that myself and a few others included, we were kind of hitting these local maximum, where we were finding, uh, products that were working for just smaller groups of people. And then some of these were hard pivots to then switch the customer segment. And so could that time have, have been, have been saved, you know, could we have avoided all that, all that, uh, needless work, um, that’s kind of what prompted the question. And it just came back to trying to, to model, you know, ask those questions in the very early stages.
Ash Maurya 00:41:57 And the way I like to explain it now is that certainly when we start thinking of experiments, we run with, we think in terms of empirical experiments with customers, but we sometimes don’t think about thought experiments that we can do and thought experiments can be just as powerful. Um, and of course there are going to be biases and things until we have to be the wary of that, but they can be just as powerful to invalidate ideas. So I thought experiment, if it works doesn’t mean your idea is going to work. You still have to get outside the building and validate it. But if a thought experiment, as you were just describing proves with pretty high certainty that in the best case scenario, this is just not going to give you what you’re looking for. Then that’s invalidation. There’s no point even going down that, that, that empath. And that’s kind of how we look at, look at that. Um, so thought experiments can be powerful. I mean, Albert Einstein for crying out loud, came up with the theory of relativity with a thought experiment.
Andrew Skotzko 00:42:51 Yeah, absolutely. It’s it’s, I mean, it’s like good science, right? A theory can, can never be proven true, but it can be definitely be proven wrong. Uh, so similarly, if we can invalidate the thing on paper, cool. And then the only, you know, quote unquote truth here is when it actually works in the market, but if we can increase our, our, uh, our odds, then let’s take it. So let’s, let’s, uh, summarize this and, and try to, um, put it into a loose sense of a process for the listener. Cause obviously we’re talking about a lot of ideas here and I want to try to ground these a little bit and for the listener, I, again, I highly encourage you to go get the new edition of the book and check out the tools there. It’s all made. Very Ash does a great job of making this very concrete, but since we’re in your ears right now, we’ve had to like, kind of frame it up for you a little bit.
Andrew Skotzko 00:43:32 So if I’m hearing you right there, you know, and I think your overarching framework here is sort of first model, then prioritize, then go test. And so if we, if we think about that, you know, there’s the modeling using the kind of the traction modeling we were just talking about. And then you get out into the more experimental stuff with customers. Uh, and within that process, it sounds like there’s kind of a sequence of milestones along the way that one we can think about in terms of the traction modeling that we then have to go prove in the real world. And if I’m hearing you, right, it sounds like those milestones are sort of first, we’ve got an, I’m saying this in, in sort of a, a time sequence. Uh, first we’ve got basically customer problem fit. Like we, you know, we know who they are, what the problem is.
Andrew Skotzko 00:44:13 What’s the job to be done. All the customer forces stuff we were talking about earlier, then we’ve got problem solution fit of like, well, we knew the problem. Now we know what to do about it. And then, um, finally then we’ve got sort of solution customer fit of earning, like the solutions working for them. They’re buying it. And then, you know, as you continue to scale, you get some place of, of product market fit. So I guess my two questions would be, first of all, is that, did I get that right? Is that the right sequencing? And then secondly, is there some way you can quantify that? Like how do you know if you’ve got those milestones or not?
Ash Maurya 00:44:44 Yeah. So, so that is the right sequence. Again, maybe I’ll just add like one more tool that we use, or the very first tool that I like to start with is not even the traction roadmap. It’s more just getting the idea out of people’s heads. And we do that with a lean canvas. So a lean canvas has got these nine boxes or 12 boxes. If you count some of the sub boxes of just letting someone to say, I have this idea and, you know, telling me a story about your idea, who’s your customer, what problem are you solving? Are you going to solve it? So that’s what the canvas helps them do. And it’s all it’s designed to fit on a single page. So that constraining, that constraint brings again, clarity into one’s thinking they would, people would love to say, you know, talk for hours about their idea, but forcing them into fitting it into a single page has, has this power of bringing clarity.
Ash Maurya 00:45:28 So that’s usually where we start. And then we start applying these stress tests and these thought experiments. So we might do a first stress test on desirability. That’s where the innovator’s gift comes in. So don’t tell me what problem you’re solving instead of telling me what’s broken in the world. So point to the triggering event, point to an existing alternative that you can do that, that your product is better with respect to, right? So that’s how we bring the desirability tests. We then talk about viability and that’s where that traction roadmapping comes in. So we start by framing those milestones and start to do some of these, um, back of the envelope calculations to say, can this even work? Um, and then the look test before we get out of the building is feasibility. So it’s great that we have a problem. The problem is big enough, the market’s big enough. Can we actually build it? Do we, do we have the right team? Do we have the right tech? You know, is it going to be cost prohibitive for us to build all of those kinds of things? And if we can get checks on all three, as I said, it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to hit it off out of the ballpark, but your odds are much higher. So that’s kind of how we prep that. So your, your, your, your last question at the end, there was, how do we put some numbers? Is that,
Andrew Skotzko 00:46:42 Yeah. So, so once we’ve, once we’ve gotten those check marks, right? So we’ve, we’ve done our stress tests on paper with desirability viability and feasibility, and we’re, we are getting out of the building now, and now we’re aiming, you know, and you have some really nice graphics and, and kind of modeling this ramp up over time of traction, uh, from sort of, you know, customer problem fit to problem solution fit to solution customer fit to product market fit, you know, whether quantitatively or qualitatively, but like, how do you, how do you know if you’re, if someone’s going down this path, like, how do I know when I actually have customer problem fit? Or how do I know when I actually have solution customer fit? Sure.
Ash Maurya 00:47:16 Yeah. So, so part of that traction roadmap, when we have defined those milestones, those are, those are those qualitative markers in the, in the journey. We need to have actual traction metrics associated with them. Um, whether these are numbers, numbers of customers or number of users, we need to have actual actual numbers tied to them. How we come to those starts by thinking in terms of where we are headed. So I love this. I don’t know, who’s the original who, who actually said this originally, but if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Right. So if you don’t have a destination in mind, we can come up with all kinds of validation stories. Oh, I have 10 customers. Is that enough? I don’t know. Do I have a hundred? Is that enough? I don’t know. Right. So we need to know where we are headed.
Ash Maurya 00:48:00 Um, and so this is where in the book and in our work, I, I described, um, this concept when people try to think about goals and where they’re headed, they start to frame it in terms of maximum upside potential. In other words, how big can my idea get? That’s a very hard number to estimate. Um, and we know this, you can go and look at, especially the unicorns, all of them didn’t think they were going to be you in the car. And still they actually, one day realized they were on the path to become becoming one. So we can really predict those. And we also, there’s just so much uncertainty. So we don’t know what, uh, what that will look like. So I instead focused on a different number, which is not what’s the maximum upside potential, but rather what’s the minimum success criteria. And we timeframe this with a three-year horizon.
Ash Maurya 00:48:47 Why three years, because most products can hit product market fit in the first two years, kind of give or take some. So we’re giving ourselves a little bit of time to achieve product market fit. Now, how you, how do you know what you’re aiming for? That is more a function of either one’s ambition or the kinds of environment you’re operating. So if you are a startup, one of the first questions I would probably ask you is, are you looking to raise money? And if you’re looking to raise money, all of a sudden your environment is going to dictate what product market fit needs to be like, because the investors are not just going to put money because they like your idea. They’re going to put money into your business because it’s out competing other benchmarks of companies that they would, they might consider putting money into.
Ash Maurya 00:49:30 So once we understand where we’re headed at product market fit, and you can go and do some of that research, you can find what are investors valuing today. And that becomes the goal and then be back ourselves from there. And then there’s kind of some simple math you can do to extrapolate that back all the way down to three months, 90 days at a time, you can figure it out. What, how much traction you need to be able to show in your hockey stick to show the investor or your, or your own team that you’re progressing in the right in the right way. Um, so there’s always a number and the hardest conversations I have are with bootstrapped entrepreneurs who say, I don’t know, I just want to build something successful. I want to build something big. So we have to then unpack what does big mean?
Ash Maurya 00:50:13 And so here, it could be helpful to think how big of a company do you want to build? Do you want to be on a thousand person company? And people say, oh, no, that’s just crazy. Maybe, maybe just 10 people. Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere because if you’ve got 10 people, we might know what payroll needs to look like. You know, what do you like to add some additional buffer for profit and other things. And then this is where we can come up with some kind of a goal that the team can can March towards. Uh, but it’s that, it’s that kind of thinking,
Andrew Skotzko 00:50:40 It adds a sense of rigor. What kind of like some, some basic intellectual rigor to an otherwise extremely nebulous process, right? The, yeah. That it is true. That zero to one stage of anything, whether it’s a startup, a book, a podcast, like whatever, anything creative, right. Zero to one is always a little crazy. And I feel like anything we can do any tools we can employ, whether they’re, you know, internal tools like thought thought experiments or, or external tools like, you know, a certain kind of interview, um, that will help us navigate that uncertainty is, is a good thing. You know, we’re doing ourselves and ultimately our customers a favor because as we increase our odds, we can actually, um, we’re more likely to make the contribution we seek to make. Uh, whereas there’s far too many of us who, who die along the road, metaphorically speaking.
Andrew Skotzko 00:51:27 So that’s one of things I really appreciate. Yeah. Beautiful. Well, I want to go ahead and, um, start to close out here with a couple of rapid fire questions. These are the short questions. You can kind of take them any way you want to take them, uh, and feel free to, you know, sort of questions are short, but your answers can be long if, if you’re feeling, if you are feeling so moved. Um, but you know, um, just a second ago you were, you were commenting that one of the hardest conversations you’ve got you have is with founders, particularly at the bootstrap stage who don’t really know what they want. Right? Like they haven’t defined success. And I guess my question for you would be at this stage for you or in this next chapter, you go into whether with this book or whatever else you’ve got cooking up. What does success look like for you at this point?
Ash Maurya 00:52:11 I guess it’s, it’s moving this, this body of work forward, and maybe I’ll describe, like, I’m more kind of in the purpose stage. I maybe I’ll take a step back. I know it kind of sounds weird to just start talking about purpose, without context. Um, I look at the entrepreneurial journey as being three stages and I, I see this true with myself. I see a true with, with many people that I’ve worked with is we generally start in the artists stage where we are building stuff and it’s really cool. We want to make a dent in the universe and all those things. So let’s put our art out there and really create something amazing. And so I’ve kind of been through that stage and many times, unfortunately our art doesn’t really sell or, you know, that’s when we get into stage two where we realize that artists need to eat as well, it’s not just creating cool, amazing stuff.
Ash Maurya 00:52:58 Um, and so that’s when we get into this business money making type of a stage. And so we started doing a lot of that viability thinking. We start thinking of price. We start, if you’re IO as a tech founder, we started getting more into marketing sales or get people on the team who can address those gaps. Um, so that’s kind of a phase where we start thinking about kind of, um, business model outcomes from a money perspective, that stage two. And then there’s kind of the stage afterwards when you’ve got your basic needs met, you kind of are okay. And you are really looking for that next big exit necessarily. And that’s the purpose stage. And that’s kind of what I hit with this New York company leads back. Um, as I was going through my blog writing journey is I could see that it took me seven years to transform my thinking from kind of the old way of building products to this new way. If we could shorten that cycle for the next generation of entrepreneurs, that would be a really cool thing to do. And so that’s kind of what I define success. If we can shorten that cycle time and let them make their own new mistakes, but at least don’t make these same mistakes that, uh, that, that, that I’ve been I’ve I’ve I’ve spent in, you know, last time. Yeah,
Andrew Skotzko 00:54:09 No, I love that. It’s, you know, we all, we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, right? So it’s like, make new, better mistakes, go, go, go picks a new ground. How do you, how do you, I mean, I love the intention of what you’re saying. Um, and as someone who is a direct beneficiary, I’ll say, thanks. Um, so, you know, we really appreciate it. Uh, but I love that idea. How do you, how do you measure that? Do you have like a north star metric of your own that you think about?
Ash Maurya 00:54:33 Yeah. I mean, for awhile we had a number of entrepreneurs. We would like to be able to have, have said, we have touched in some way kind of usage of our tools. So we kind of use those kinds of metrics. Um, at one point that was a million entrepreneurs and we crossed that threshold. And so we’re like, okay, that’s we need to now, so I like to think in terms of 10 X, and now we have just 10 X that number, and we’re waiting to see, can we get 10 million people at some point saying I use these tools and I’ve, I’ve got some saved some time or made some progress in my idea. That would be amazing.
Andrew Skotzko 00:55:05 Yeah, no, I really like that. And I, I love the 10 X thinking you do with the Fermi estimates. It’s a, it’s great because you’re like, all right, cool. Across that one, just 10 exit and let’s get back to work. It’s nice. Yeah. That’s terrific. I appreciate that. Um, so one of the things that I think a lot about is questions, right? And I, I don’t say that just as somebody who does a podcast, but I think, you know, the questions we ask ourselves determine the way we think, and then what we do. And I guess one of the questions I would ask you is if you could have the listener, start to ask themselves a question on a regular basis and whether the, you know, regular, whether that’s a day, every day or every week, whatever some cadence you think would be impactful, what cadence, what question would you have them ask themselves and how often? Hmm.
Ash Maurya 00:55:51 So I almost start every, so I, I tend to be more, um, accomplishment driven. Like I can go when I go to bed at night, I almost try to look back and say, did I move something forward? So really in the morning when I wake up, it usually is before I even do anything. One of the first prompts that I give myself is what, what’s the one thing I need to get done today. And then, and usually that’s, uh, that’s one of the, you know, Derek kind of different versions of this, you know, rock and all these kinds of things that you probably are familiar, but that’s just that one thing question, like, what’s the one thing that you can do to move something forward. And in there is baked, um, this idea of problems before solutions, sometimes uncovering the right thing, requires unpacking the problem a bit more. So all of that kind of falls out of it, but, um, that’s almost the first principle of mine and something we try to instill with everyone that we work with. Uh, my team included is let’s not rush to building stuff without having evidence of something being broken in the first place. So a lot of, a lot of the work that I do sometimes seemingly see, it looks like sitting on my armchair, just thinking, but I’m really just trying to understand, like how do we prioritize, prioritize step?
Andrew Skotzko 00:57:07 Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. The, I love that way of thinking of, you know, what’s the, you hear it phrase different ways like you were saying, you know, what’s the, what’s the one thing that makes everything else either easier or unnecessary, but, um, yeah, that whole, that whole great book, by the way, we’ll link to that in the show notes, but, uh, yeah, really appreciate that. What is a quote or saying, you know, is there any quote or saying that you returned to, that uh, has been impactful for you and, and what about it speaks to you?
Ash Maurya 00:57:36 Oh, there are so many, I think if you look at my book, I think at almost at least in some of the earlier additions, this time, my publisher, where somebody’s going to want as many coats in there. Um, but I’ve got lots of them. So, um, I think it’s very contextual for me. I would say, like, I’m a huge fan of Edwards, Edwards, Deming. I mean, Steve jobs has a lot of stuff. Peter Drucker had a lot of stuff. Um, but if, kind of on topic, I would say, you know, just recognizing that it’s not the customer’s job to know what they want, I think is probably a very powerful one. Um, and that came from Steve jobs. And so really when we talk to customers and I see this crap that people, people run into a lot is really asking the customer, instead of trying to discover where they are trying to go and everything we’ve talked about, the forces and things. Um, but that’s a very powerful one. And I think it, it, it drives a lot of the work and, you know, people will often cite the great Steve jobs and talk about how he could, he could see the future, but he did this by again, a lot of thought experiments and a lot of observation and a lot of asking the question of why are people doing the things they’re doing? You know, why are they living with these hard to use products? And then he went off and thought of something better.
Andrew Skotzko 00:58:52 Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. It reminds me of a, a a, and I don’t know where I heard this. You’ve probably said it in. So of other people I don’t, I really don’t know, but, uh, something that I’ve, I’ve told people on my teams over the years, many, many times, you know, we’ll go into user interviews or things like that. I’m like, look, it’s their job to be the expert on what’s broken and it’s our job to figure out how to fix it. And let’s just keep that in mind, because it’s so easy. Like you said, you end up, you can end up with, uh, you know, this backlog full of stuff. And none of it really works and it’s, it’s like backlog whiplash, right? You just get like, yanked around, think the thing. And if you don’t have that, you haven’t dug underneath it all into those forces.
Andrew Skotzko 00:59:29 You just you’re at the mercy of like recency bias. If what’s the last thing said by the loudest person. And if you’re in that place, you have bigger problems. Um, at least that’s how I think about it. So, you know, one of the things I wanted to ask you was, and this is, this is something I like to do, especially with somebody like you, who I followed your work for so long now. And you’ve really, you know, you can count me in the know in your, in your metric of people who you’ve impacted the thinking of like I’m a hundred percent in that, in that count, but who impacted your thinking? Like, who’s, who’s really shaped you, your thinking and the way you see the world. Yeah.
Ash Maurya 01:00:00 Some of the names you’ve, you’ve already mentioned. So there, there are many of the early lean startup thinkers. I would say, as I was going through this journey, they were big influences. Prior to that, of course I had many mentors, but if we stay within, within this framework, I would say they were big ones. People like Steve blank, for sure. Eric Reese, um, and then many other Sean Ellis, um, Dave, McClory a lot of the metrics models we use. Um, so if you look at my work, I sometimes say I’m a bit like a DJ. I take, you know, tracks from many different places, systems thinking jobs to be done, you know, Bob west that you mentioned him. Um, so all those folks have been like huge giants in my own body of work, but I take all these little pieces and I’m a curator. Like I try to find how to stitch them together, how to make the tools that can make it easier to understand and easier to use. So that’s kind of what, what drives me, but all of those, those folks are, are big influencers. And in that, in that work, um,
Andrew Skotzko 01:00:57 Yeah, you really seem like it, it seems like you and I, uh, I similarly identify as like, I would call it maybe a synthesizer or a curator where, you know, I can kind of like see all these things and figure out a way to smash them together into something useful. Um, and that’s often, that’s often the way I can make a unique contribution. So that’s, that’s interesting. Does that show up for you elsewhere? Is that like just how your brain works?
Ash Maurya 01:01:18 I think that’s how my brain works. They used to be a show that I grew up with it. I think it was called, um, contacts or connections, many connections as I think it was a British show, but it was all patterns. Like they would start the story with, you know, like maybe there’s a, there’s a shipwreck happening and then they would leave that to something else. And that connects to this other thing. And it was all these connections and this story, and you would end up in these random places. And I found that very fascinating. So I have this, you know, maybe, maybe rather, um, naive belief that everything is somehow connected. There is a unified theory of everything. So when I, when I even encounter a book, even if it’s a fiction book and as an interesting point of view there, I always try to relate it to something, a problem that I’m thinking about or how could this be applied in some ways? So this is how my brain works for some reason.
Andrew Skotzko 01:02:02 Yeah, no, uh, just listening to you right there. It reminded me of one book and one really great talk that I, I w I’m curious if you’ve come across the book is a, I think it’s called, they all laughed. And it’s the story. It’s like the origin story of all these innovations that, and basically that, like the world was like, that’s dumb, no way that’s going to work, but it turned out to be, you know, this amazing contribution to humanity. Um, and the, and the second one that that’s on the sort of innovation connection side, but then the other one, have you, by any chance, seen the talk done by Tom G? Uh, he did a talk called, I think it’s called everything is connected. And you seen this talk, All right. It’s same idea you’re talking about, but he actually ends up taking it to an almost like metaphysical level, but proving that like from almost a physics point of view, um, it is awesome. I’ll send you the link and everyone listening. You should definitely check it. It will, it’s like a 20 minute talk that he did. I think it like the mind valley summit a couple of years ago, but like, it’ll, it’ll, it’ll just hit you, like, it’s good.
Andrew Skotzko 01:03:09 Yeah. Yeah. I will. I will send you the link and for the listener, this will all be in shownotes, but I think, uh, I think those might resonate with you, especially given our shared topical interests. So, uh, yeah, I hope you let me know what you think when you check them out. Uh, well, awesome. Ashley, this has been an absolute pleasure, as I said, uh, you know, I’ve admired and followed and benefited from your work for well over a decade now. So thanks for taking some time out of your day to, to hang with me and our listeners. Um, and for the listener, you know, we are going to link to all this stuff in the show notes. I highly recommend go sign up for lead stack, use the tools, get ashes, book it. I mean, I’ve been through all this stuff. I can tell you, like, I don’t recommend it lightly. It is it’s legit do it. It will help you. And, uh, it’s, you know, as you can tell by listening to Ash, he’s, the guy knows what he’s talking about. So Ash, first off you, big gratitude and thank you for being here and for your work. Um, what would you just like to leave the listener with and where can people find you to follow along for the journey?
Ash Maurya 01:04:02 Yeah. First, thank you, Andrea. I’ll probably leave you with the, with the first mindset that we teach, and it’s kind of the theme of the talk today, but it’s love the problem, not your solution. Um, and that’s probably the thing that takes, it’s the easiest thing to think you understand, but it takes, like, I think it did take many, many decades to kind of get that right. Um, as we, we, as humans just usually gravitate towards solutions that were problems. So hopefully that something you can take away. And a lot of what we do is just kind of peeling, peeling that onion a bit, a bit, a bit further, um, in terms of where to find me, you already mentioned lean stack. That’s the company I run. That’s kind of where I live. My email is just [email protected] Um, I do look at my email a lot, so that’s a place you can definitely hit me if you’ve got questions, comments. Um, and then the same, my first name, last name that is my handle on many things. So LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram. So find me from all those places.
Andrew Skotzko 01:04:59 Awesome. Ash. Well again, thank you so much. And, uh, thanks for being here today. Keep it up. Good luck with the book.
Ash Maurya 01:05:04 Thank you, Andrew.