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Customers Deserve a Different MVP: The Maximum Valuable Product
I’ve been saying it for years, but now I’m writing it: The Lean Start-Up is wrong.
If you’re not familiar with it, The Lean Start-Up is a 2011 book by Eric Reis. It is considered a bible for some entrepreneurs and similarly for corporations, as they work agile into their process. The book’s premise is that a company wanting to innovate should create an “MVP” or minimum viable product. Create the bare minimum of a product or service, get it to market fast, see the response, and scale. Eventually, you’ll create the product the market wants.
There are two problems with this model. One, most companies don’t “do failure” and will probably abandon the project rather than iterate (see my recent post about this).
But the bigger problem I have is this: Don’t our customers deserve better than the bare minimum? Why should we ship something that customers kinda want when we could launch something that instantly makes their lives better?
I think we should create a new kind of MVP and call it the Maximum Valuable Product. It would have all the functionality a customer didn’t even know she wanted. She loves it so much, she can’t imagine life without it and tells all her friends. They then use it, also love it.
As innovators, we can and need to create this kind of MVP. Yet we rarely do that because we’ve enabled a business culture that fetishizes the lowest common denominator. It’s like we’re tasked with making a three-legged stool but, wanting to get it to market fast, we skimp on the features most needed, remove two of the legs, and insist, “It’ll still be great!” We know what will happen when the customers go to sit on that stool and then we act surprised when they fall off.
Our customers deserve our best MVPs. Here’s how we can build them:
Instead of prioritizing the minimum and reducing it to the lowest common denominator, upsize it into the best common experience with the resources you have.
Be thoughtful about what features you’re choosing. I get that you can’t always include everything, but that doesn’t mean you should pick a feature because it’s easier on the dev team. Pick the features that matter most to the end-user.
To make those decisions, rely on user insights and research upfront. Many teams don’t do this and instead let available technologies determine what they build.
Iterating and testing products are valuable for your end-user (fine Eric - I agree with this part!). Create a mock-up or prototype so you can do an end-to-end analysis. Figma is a tool we swear by for this.
How do you know if your MVP is a hit? Don’t worry; the signs will be obvious. You’ll see them in the number of people using your product, in the reviews they’re leaving, in the decrease in customer service calls, and in the growth of your business.
All right, there. I’ve publicly said my piece about The Lean Start-Up as purist theory. I’d love to start a debate!