Minimum Viable Product: You're Doing It Wrong!

Episode 34 - 04 May 2016

The concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is not new, but it didn't 'click' for me until I saw one perfect image.

Henrik Kniberg's beautiful sketch powerfully illustrates where we've been going wrong: creating products that are MINIMAL, but not VIABLE.


-- Frank Robinson -- Henrik Kniberg

The best definition I've seen for "Minimum Viable Product" is not a set of words.

It's a sketch.

A sketch that encapsulates the concept so perfectly...

... that it went viral.

Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson coined the term "Minimum Viable Product" in 2001.

The idea - at least at a superficial level - is simplicity itself:

  • Get a version of the product in front of a customer early as possible.

Not with the aim of generating early income - though that is no bad thing - but with the aim of LEARNING.

The chances are that you've heard of Minimum Viable Product before today..

... and that when you heard it, you immediate "got it".

As Frank himself said:

  • “When I first said ‘minimum viable product’ I never had to repeat myself. The words went viral right before my eyes.”


Is it Viable?

Just because something is easy to grasp, doesn't mean it's easy to do.

It's not easy. Far from it.

Here's the problem:

We - development teams, lead developers, product owners... even business owners - usually have an idea of what the "ultimate" product might look like.

Ask us to come up with a minimum version and we'll hack off a feature here and a feature there.

What we end up with will certainly be MINIMAL: that's the easy part.

But will it be VIABLE?

That's the tricky part.

Enter Henrick Kniberg

A gentleman by the name of Henrick Kniberg captured the difference between the two perfectly in his (now viral) image:

In the top line, we have minimal, but not viable (until we get the final step). In the bottom line, we have minimal AND viable every step of the way.

In a recent blog post, Henrik said that he was surprised that his image went viral.

I'm not surprised at all.

I think it's genius.

Next time.

Next time we'll take a look at some "real world" Minimium Viable Products.