An MVP is designed not just to answer product design or technical questions, it’s goal is to test fundamental business hypotheses.
Early adopters care about being the first to use or adopt a new product or technology. Early adopters are suspicious of something that is too polished: if its ready for everyone to adopt, how much advantage can one get by being early? As a result, additional features or polish beyond what early adopters demand is a form of wasted resources and time.
MVP’s range in complexity from extremely simple smoke tests (little more than an advertisement) to actual early prototypes complete with problems and missing features. Deciding on complexity cannot be done formulaically, it requires judgement. When in doubt, simplify e.g. Consider a service sold with a one-month free trial. Before a customer can use the service, he or she has to sign up for the trail. One obvious assumption, then, of the business model is that customers will sign up for a free trail once they have a certain amount of information about the service. A critical question to consider is whether customers will in fact sign up for the free trail given a certain number of promised features (the value hypothesis – e.g We assume 10% of customers will sign up)
The lesson of the MVP is that any additional work beyond what was required to start learning is waste, no matter how important it might have seemed at the time.
Based on customer feedback can you determine the problem that most people didn’t know they had and once you experience the solution you cannot imagine how you ever lived without it. Customers often don’t know what they want (this is a repeating theme, in Inmates running the asylum, inspired, Innovators Dilemma). If you do not know who the customer is, you do not know what quality is. Customers don’t care how much time something takes to build, they care only if it serves their needs.
Concierge MVP, a common outcome of this is to invalidate hte company’s proposed growth model, making it clear that a different approach is needed. Without a formal growth model, many companies get caught in the trap of being satisfied with a small profitable business when a pivot might lead to a more significant growth.
Even a low quality MVP can act in service of building a great high-quality product. You should always ask, what if they don’t care about design in the same way we do? MVPs require the courage to put one’s assumptions to the test. You must be willing to set aside traditional professional standards to start the process of validated learning as soon as possible, this does not mean operating in a sloppy or undisciplined way. It helps to prepare for the fact that MVPs often result in bad news. You have to commit to a locked-in agreement – ahead of time – that no matter what comes of testing the MVP, you will not give up hope. The MVP is just the first step on the journey of learning.
When building your own MVP let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek.
Iterating so that each week you are learning more and more about what is required to make your product a success.
We all need a disciplined, systematic approach to figuring out if we’re making progress and discovering if we’re actually achieving validated learning.