Lean Startup Machine Part 2: Invalidate My Assumptions With the Javelin ...

Lean Startup Machine Part 2: Invalidate My Assumptions With the Javelin Board

Javelin Board
The Lean Startup Machine Javelin Board

Welcome to Part 2 of the Lean Startup Machine series. This article will detail a key feature of any Lean Startup Machine event: The Javelin Board.

After introducing myself at Lean Startup Machine Montevideo, the organizer encouraged me to check out the different teams. The groups each had their own designated office space, and affixed to the office wall was a board containing numerous Post-It notes. I soon learned that this was the Javelin Board, also known as the Validation Board. This is a key feature of the Lean Startup Machine workshops. It offers a concrete framework for either validating – or in some cases invalidating – your business startup assumptions.


About the Javelin Board

Trevor Owens, founder of Lean Startup Machine, designed the Javelin Board to help organize and guide the experimental process. This innovative canvas prompts you through a step-by-step process. As you enter vital information, your business idea progresses from concept to validation. Here is what a blank Javelin Board  looks like.


The Sticky Notes

When it comes to filling out the Javelin Board, sticky notes are your friends. In fact, at Lean Startup Machine Montevideo, a pack of sticky notes was one of the pieces of swag given to winning teams. Each of these notes have at most, seven words, which are written in all-caps. Although some of them will not end up on the board, keep them off to the side. You might revisit them again, especially if you decide to pivot your idea.

The Javelin Board Layout

The left side of the Javelin Board features your brainstorming hypotheses while the right side is for tracking your different experiments. Each brainstorming field has a 5 to 10-minute time constraint. This prevents team members from over-thinking each hypotheses.
Now look at the lower left-hand corner. You will see a sampling of fill-in-the-blank phrases, which cover:

  • Problem and solution hypotheses
  • Identifying assumptions
  • Isolating the riskiest assumption
  • Designing an experiment
  • Determining success criteria

Filling Out the Javelin Board: The Process

Here is a step-by-step guide to filling out the Javelin Board:

  1. Take five minutes to have everyone on the team write a customer description on a sticky note
  2. Paste it on the Validation Board in the field labeled, “Who is your customer?”
  3. Choose one and stick it on the right-hand side of the board in column1, next to the label “Customer.”
  4. Ask everyone on your team identify a problem that customer has and write it on a note.
  5. Paste the problem description one the left-hand field labeled “What is the problem?”
  6. Vote on the most significant problem, and place it on the right-hand side of the board in column 1, next to the label “Problem.”
  7. Ask your team members to write down five assumptions that must hold true for the problem to be valid.
  8. Put them on the left-hand field labeled “List the assumptions that must be hold true for your hypothesis to be true.”
  9. Discuss the degree of uncertainty surrounding each assumption and choose one as the riskiest.
  10. Paste it on the right-hand side, in column 1, next to the designated “Riskiest Assumptions” field.

The Experimental Phase

Lean startup machine stickers
Invalidate My Assumptions: Photo by John Fischer stickergiant.com

Enough talk. Now you need to take it out of the building, and talk to potential customers. In Lean Startup Machine Speak, these are called experiments, and as you can see from the Javelin Board, you can conduct up to five experiments. After each one, decide to either pivot or persevere, and record your decision in the field appropriately marked “Result and Decision.”

For more about the Javelin Board, watch the video.

See the rest of the posts in this series:


This post was penned by...

Lisa Marie Mercer

From the heart of New York City, to the hill towns of Italy, to the ski towns of Colorado, to the beach towns of coastal Uruguay, Lisa Marie Mercer has journeyed across the globe, often stopping to stay a few months or a few years. A widely-published writer, she covers topics such as travel, expat living, health and fitness, skiing, social media, Latin America and startup entrepreneurs.

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