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Last updated on 11/30/21

Discover the Build Step of the Lean Cycle

The first step of the Lean Cycle is the Build Step.

The Build Step of the Lean Cycle
The Build Step of the Lean Cycle

Principles of Building

When we build and run experiments, we do so for the purpose of validating our hypothesis in the shortest possible timeframe. Obviously, it is important that we are very clear about what our hypothesis is and we state it properly.

Once we have a clearly stated hypothesis, there are a few general principles to follow when thinking about what experiments we can run and what we need to build:

  1. Start with what you want to learn

  2. Adopt a creative frame of mind

  3. Brainstorm with your team (ask open questions!)

  4. Build the minimum possible

  5. Ask if there are faster ways to get the same learning / data?

Creativity plays a fundamental part in this process. We have already shared the stories of how Dropbox was creative (using an explainer video as an MVP) and how Zappos was creative (creating an eCommerce store without inventory).  There is a real opportunity to design something in the Build phase that can be built very quickly and cheaply and removes a huge amount of risk from our project by validating our hypothesis at the earliest possible moment.

Our ultimate goal in this phase is to develop the highest possible "velocity of learning".

Velocity of Learning

Let's take the example of a team that completes their experiment in 20 days. This includes experiment design, building the necessary product for the experiment, collecting the relevant data and analyzing it.

A lean cycle completed in 20 days

Now let's take another team who is able to achieve the same amount of learning in a 10 day period. Therefore, if this team were given 20 days, they could do two experiments of this type.

What we see here is that the second team has twice the velocity of learning. They learn twice as fast. In conditions of extreme uncertainty, they will discover the winning formula twice as quickly. 

When building for experiments using the lean cycle, the two important concepts are:

  1. Maximize your learning

  2. Minimize what you build in order to learn

In this way the learning velocity of the team will be as high as possible and the team will have the greatest chance of discovering a winning formula.

Tips for keeping the build minimal

Here are some practical tips for building only what is necessary

  1. Consider the 4 types of MVP. In a previous lesson, we examined the four different types of MVP. It is always worth considering if any of these can be a way for the team to learn quickly. MVPs are well-established ways of maximizing learning while building only what is necessary

  2. Familiarize yourself with tools that can speed you up. In particular, tools like Intercom, Unbounce,  Mailchimp and many more can be very useful for running experiments. They can make the gathering and analysis of data very easy and can also make addressing certain cohorts very easy also. Cohorts are groups of users that have something in common (e.g. users who create an account in a given week).

  3. Get creative. This is best done with the team. Read as much as you can about other teams and other product managers who have found innovative ways to approach how they validate their assumptions. Going to meetups or reading books and blogs from product managers can be inspirational. 


  • We want to build the minimum possible to validate our hypothesis.

  • Doing so means that we get results faster and our velocity of learning and our ability to run more experiments increases.

  • In this way, we are more likely to discover a hypothesis we can validate than if we take longer to run experiments

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