The Lean Startup – a New Philosophy for Non-Profits

The Lean StartupI’ve been following up on my new year’s resolution to read more books, and began reading The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries. I could add all sorts of glowing recommendations to the long list of accolades from all over the globe, and I will. This book has the power to transform business as usual for the non-profit sector. Beginning with Ries’ definition of a start up:

A human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

The book constructs a full-on assault on business as usual; on the old theories of “build it and they will come.” This book does for entrepreneurial thinking and startup culture what Deming did for manufacturing.

Under this definition, any human institution – this includes non-profits looking for volunteers and donors, case-managers looking for new ways to engage constituents, even ex-offenders looking for employment – is a startup of sorts. There are only two conditions to meet in order to belong to the startup sector first, is that you are creating a new product or service and second, that there are conditions of extreme uncertainty. Who isn’t living under these conditions? 

Every non-profit I work with is operating in a world where they aren’t sure where their next dollar is coming from. Every case-manager I know isn’t sure if their position will survive the next round of downsizing. And every ex-offender I work with isn’t sure he’ll ever work a legitimate job ever again. All of us are operating in this space. The principles contained within The Lean Startup create a space wherein organizations and individuals can thrive despite these uncertainties.

I’ve only read the first 75 pages or so but I can already see how this philosophy has the power to turn the non-profit sector on its head. I’ll keep reading and let you know what I find. In the mean-time, you go check it out and let me know what you think!



  1. KIMqJDmzQk on December 13, 2023 at 2:44 am


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