Innovation and Lean Startup in politics: Trump is the President of USA

While perusing Time magazine, Nov 21st 2016 issue, my attention was caught by Mr Trump’s photo, taken after his win. – “MESSAGE DELIVERED – The candidate no one saw coming accomplished what few thought he could” I asked myself: how could someone with no political upbringing win the presidential elections?

I tried to answer my own question, by writing on a piece of paper some of the words I thought were linked to this subject (elections): uncertainty, boldness, voters, and message. By sort of playing the “connect the dots” game, I realized Mr. Trump, thanks to his reckless temperament (a typical entrepreneurial trait), tried to achieve his goal by tackling an unknown and uncertain market (which is what voters are – unknown and uncertain) trying to sell his political message (oftentimes not politically correct).

uncertainty, boldness, voters, and message


The “trying to sell the most appropriate message” (which means trying to sell a product / service to somewhat unknown clients) is typically an experimental approach: “try, fail, learn”. As Clay Christensen pointed out (The Innovator’s Dilemma), your aim is to find the most suitable market for your innovative technology (in this scenario it’s a message rather than a product); therefore you use the “try, fail, learn” approach, offering your product literally to anyone you think might, even remotely, be interested (e.g. Seagate Technology).

The “try and fail” approach is one of the innovator’s most important traits. The innovative companies launch a product when clients and customers do not even know they need yet. The radical innovation lies in believing the products they launch have a disruptive potential.

The “try and fail” strategy is the most efficient one because the innovative companies offer the new product to multiple market segments (following a thorough analysis) before identifying the interested customers / clients / parties.

The “try and fail” approach is one of the innovator’s most important traits.

Trump’s product (which the market wasn’t aware of desiring yet) was his message; a message ripe with nationalist and protectionist characteristics, populist tendencies and deliberately poor in details. He exploited Americans’ vulnerability concerning several perceived threats: (job to be done C.M. Christensen) economics, immigration, war on terror, etc. What mattered most was not the message’s detail, but validating the granting (on social media platforms analytics) of his broad and unrefined message by American nationalists (and job scared) voters.

The “trying and failing” session has further improved by using, with a certain irreverence toward his most dynamics critics (Silicon Valleys’ startuppers), the Lean Startup methodology.

The Lean Startup method (incremental innovation) believes in closely communicating with the client in order to develop a final product, which will meet all of the client’s requests.


Trump had already answered the Lean Startup first question: “Do we need this product?” Yes, he had understood, from the beginning, that his message needed to be a strong and populist one. Yet, the product was not complete (Minimum Viable Product); it needed to be personalized for those voters who could be a greater catchment area.

So the main question became “How can we build a sustainable business with these products (messages)?”. The best way to do this was to offer other multiple products (populist messages); they needed to be more on point (mexican wall, immigration, taxes) and also contradictory (his own tweets vs. His staff’s tweets). The thorough and neverending work on social media accurately defined the segments which could be more and more interested and involved. Data analysis proved that sustainability was provided by perpetually adapting the message a.k.a. the final product.

sustainability was provided by perpetually adapting the message

Therefore I think I can safely say that Mr. Trump (skilled entrepreneur and 2016 leader) set in motion the best mix of strategies to win nowadays markets:

1) Identifying the real “job to be done” (why? Citizens want to feel safe from threats)

2) Approaching as an innovatoar (How? I pinpointed the threats, I understood them)

3) Carrying out the Lean StartUp: modifying and improving the products by offering small quantities (multiple messages) very fast (what? Building a wall, producing IPhones made in the U.S. etc) to charm clients / voters.


Mr Trump’s victory didn’t surprise me at all; his actions mirrored what the young entrepreneurs based in Silicon Valley did when they won the high tech markets.

What was surprising was how shrewed and irreverent he was when he used his “enemies” strategies to achieve his goal. He also was irreverent when, as a soundtrack for his victory speech, he played The Rolling Stones’ song “You can’t always get what you want” when the band had forbidden it.

So, the Trump example shows that the tools (Design thinking, Lean Startup, Business model canvas, etc.) typically used on high tech market organizations (or perceived as a typical “young startup”), are fitted for a broader range of business. If these strategies can even work for politics, they are clearly the winning way to do business these days. Building something innovative is not easy. But we do have the tools to try. Well, let’s [Italy] use them!

Building something innovative is not easy. But we do have the tools to try. Well, let’s use them!



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