What we’ve learnt from Startup Culture

For all of it’s limitless pivots, funding rounds and in-office football tables, Startup culture can teach established companies a thing or two.

Every engineering department has moments it’s not too proud of. That one major bug that made it into production, the code deployed to the real world instead of the testing environment, that piece of code so nasty no developer will even look at it. Well for us, it was MyGuardian. The feature we couldn’t finish. Three implementations, two name changes, one major redesign and countless developer hours and we still couldn’t get the feature to stick. Initially sold as a recommendations platform, users didn’t incorporate it into their daily habits and it failed to gain traction.

Retrospectively, we should have taken a leaf from startup culture’s sacred text The Lean Startup (Eric Ries, 2011) which is, by this point, surely on the bedside table of every startup CEO in Silicon Valley. Above all, Ries promotes the idea of “Build, Measure, Learn” which states that any feature should be built in its most simple usable form, tested for changes in user behaviour and then learnings be implemented to improve the product. If the feature does not create a positive change then it should be retired as quickly as possible and new ideas generated. Herein is the first lesson that any large organisation should learn from a startup.

If you’re going to fail, fail fast.

This is of course, easier said than done. People become attached to ideas and naturally become affected by the sunk cost fallacy as projects develop, but it is the responsibility of any developer to remain objective, notice the warning signs and act on them to create meaningful features faster.

Related to this is the need for every developer to have an active involvement in the development of features from inception to production, or put another way:

Developers should have ownership of products

Read the rest on The Guardian


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