THE PIVOT- A CHANGE IN STRATEGY
All ideas for action are based on a strategy - whether it's well articulated or not (the shadow strategy) - and so, there are a series of assumptions and predictions about who users are, their priorities, and what will happen when they encounter your idea in a place.
One of the greatest benefits of the Lean Startup approach for city-making is changing focus from what people say about an idea to what people do - their actual response to a prototype. In cities there is pressure to engage people, consult stakeholders, gain feedback and so on, yet this can backfire by providing misleading input into decision-making - people don't always do what they say. In the startup world there is now an understanding that it is better to put forward a prototype and develop it over time through feedback from user behaviour. In the Lean Startup the execution of the idea is the engagement with the user.
Design capabilities and start-up methods
It is crucial for city-making with the startup approach to include design capabilities in a team to distill new or remixed ideas into propositions for urban innovation. Because, when a prediction or hypothesis about an idea is invalidated the team needs to make a decision about the strategy which lead to the idea. Including professional designers helps to overcome the phenomenon of 'pet projects' and hurt feelings that can arise in community-led placemaking projects when an idea needs to be killed off or radically changed.
The Lean Startup uses the phrase "pivot or persevere" for this decision point. The pivot involves a new strategic direction, whereas persevering involves tinkering with the existing ideas.
In placemaking, local governments are typically risk averse and failure can be criticised both inside the organisation and by the users and stakeholders involved in a place. Our experience shows that at the pivot or persevere moment, its critical to demonstrate commitment to the place and stakeholders - the relationships with business people and residents is often built on shaky ground when starting out and building trust needs to be a priority. This means quickly addressing any issues, and also to committing to a new direction with skill and rapid execution when necessary. Nurturing relationships over time through placemaking is a key benefit of the startup approach - relationships become less transactional and more collaborative as more prototypes and successes are experienced.
The bias toward action of the startup approach has helped our clients to reduce risk and cost, and accelerate outcomes and build relationships with place stakeholders and delighted their communities. The startup approach is great for quickly establishing a rhythm of of build-measure-learn for projects when resources are available. Yet cities are not businesses and the regulatory environment in which they operate can cause headaches for city makers.