Through the Looking Glass: Google Glass as a Lean Startup case study

After a long time, I finally got my hands on Google Glass. I got one to try out for a couple of days and I must say I am very impressed. I think they are a technological achievement.

What impresses me even more is the way Google are handling the product. If you ever read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (if you didn’t, you should…), you can see a lot of concepts that are used to develop this innovation.

Sell your product

First concept that is introduced in the book is to charge money for your product. It creates a commitment from the clients, establishes the product has valuable in the eyes of the customer and creates an environment in which people who use the product actually want it.

An added benefit to this is that you can get immediate feedback from the ones who purchased it. Since the customer pied for it, he will not ignore things that are bothering him.

Although in this case the price is pretty steep, I think it donates to the feeling of exclusivity of the product (more on that later).

MVP

lass is a great MVP. It achieved what many products before tried and failed – on the go display in front the user.

The purpose of a MVP is to create the minimum requirements for the product, and then throwing it to the real world to see if it answers the users expectations.

In this case you get a HUD (Heads Up Display) which connects to the internet and your phone, which is still quite awkward to use.

But that’s the point – I’m sure someone thought “Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to use Head gestures to scroll?” – but once it was out in the field, he got the feedback from the user saying: “Hey, when I’m on a bus or in a meeting, I can’t really start to bob my head to scroll for what I need”.

The amazing thing here, that the MVP by itself is a platform for change by the actual users. Apps are being develop to enrich and fill the blanks Google left or missed. Some of them, in turn, will become part of the system, thus improving the product by the community knowledge and experience.

Use the Power Users

One of my eureka moments when reading the Lean Startup book was that although we strive to build a product to accommodate most users, we need the power users to give us feedback. They will be the most invested users. They will give the best feedback (uncensored and uncompromising).

And when they feel they are heard, they will be the ones who will advocate your product and help you to spread it.

In this case, Google has done a wonderful job by creating an exclusive group of users for there product (as they are doing all the time – remember Gmail beta?), which are invested (since they pied a lot of money for it) and are not afraid to criticize it when it doesn’t meet their expectations.

Although it seems trivial, think how hard it was for you to get users to use your product (and pay for it).

Feedback loop

All of the above serves only one purpose: to get feedback. To experiment. To understand what the user really need, not what we think he wants.

When you search the web about Glass, you get a ton of reviews, criticism and suggestions – good and bad. I’m sure the developers of Glass are gaining a lot from the feedback (UX, looks, app development, etc…).

But it’s not only a technical experiment. It’s also a grand social experiment meant to see how we, as humans, will react to this sort of product. This is a kind of product which changes our way of thinking and behavior – someone is always recording us, search data about us and our conversation topics while we talk to him. How will people react to this? How will governments and security agencies will? A very interesting question that I’m sure the management at Google are looking at the world wide reaction with a magnifying Glass (pun intended).

Entrepreneurship

Although almost everyone considers Google as one of the world’s trendsetters and a very innovative company, it is still amazing to see projects like this – which has a lot of risk and I’m guessing costs quite a lot, can happen within such a big company.

Lean Startup talks about how entrepreneurship can happen inside a big company or enterprise – islands of innovation, and how to create a culture for think and executing these kind of things.

It amazes me that Google is doing these all the time (with quite a lot of failures) and continuing to do so to find the next grand thing.

In conclusion

I don’t know if Glass will be successful or not, but I’m quite sure that from this experiment, Google (and other companies) are learning a lot.

I believe this is the way developing products should work, since the road to creating a successful one, is bumpy and long. What makes a successful product? This is the question all of us are trying to answer all the time.

Now, think about it for a minute. Can you use this concepts on your next idea? For your next feature?

Yossi Shmueli

Keeping it green since 1995

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