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The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets by Eric Ries, Patrick Vlaskovits, Brant Cooper

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Customer Interaction

Customer interaction is a catchphrase for the myriad ways successful entrepreneurs engage with their customers in order to learn from them. Some of these methods include:

  • Steve Blank’s customer development.
  • Observation.
  • Various user-centric design methodologies.
  • Consultative sales.
  • Living the life of your customer.

We are perhaps biased toward customer development as a result of having worked in high-tech startups through the frustration caused by executing unknown processes. Steve Blank offers a remedy to such unknown processes in The Four Steps to the Epiphany. At the risk of restating the obvious, there are two primary objectives to all these techniques:

1. Learn. Your job is not to be faithful to your product, value, and market assumptions, but rather to validate or invalidate them, in order for you to be able to iterate toward reality.
2. Don’t waste. The point isn’t to fill out worksheets, create new deliverables, fill out your assumptions in triplicate, or increase interview efficacy by conducting the stand-on-your-head interview technique™. What do you need to learn to move the needle in your business?

In a story told in perhaps every lean book written, a Toyota chief drove through the 50 United States and the 10 provinces and three territories of Canada, mostly in a minivan, in order to experience what American and Canadian auto consumers experienced in their daily lives.5 This is customer development done by the world’s largest automobile manufacturer, ...

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