AlleyWatch Feature: What Startups Can Learn from Fijian Farmers

August 28th, 2013 by Ben M.

While I'm now an Outreach team member, spending my days at Chartbeat developing partnerships in the U.S. and abroad, prior to joining the Chartteam I spent some time working for a nonprofit in Fiji. I learned a lot during my time in Fiji – and since I've been back  those learnings have become applicable in all sorts of ways.

I recently wrote a piece for AlleyWatch that draws parallels between Fijian farming traditions and and strategies shared by lean startups and publishers. Check out this link for the whole article, and enjoy the excerpt below:

Before I entered the world of tech, data, and office dogs, I lived in Fiji and worked for a human-services nonprofit. I was lucky enough to help out at a 186-acre farm where dozens of subsistence farmers worked the land to feed their families and raise their children.

Beyond their immense generosity, two things jumped out at me immediately: the farmers walked extremely slowly, and they planted all of their crops on an incline. Seemed a little strange to me, so I talked with a few farmers and found out they did this because they understood the exact amount of calories, power, and reward that they would extract from a single plant, even a group of plants.

By planting on an incline and walking slowly, they expended less energy to get the same reward, maximizing the deal they made with mother nature.

So why is this at all relevant? Because, when you think about it, this is exactly what lean startup teams do — or should do, at least.

Lean teams with endless responsibility and an autonomous, no-heavy-oversight-layers-of-management working style have to be conscious of how they spend their time. Every hour spent iterating on that perfectly flat design, creating the right Facebook presence, user testing again and again, or searching for someone to promote the biz, must be quantified. Did that hour actually move the needle? Thinking in the way of our Fijian farmers, how slow do we need to walk and what incline do we plant on to get the ripest fruit?

Keep reading here. And please let me know what you think in the Comments!