Life As Minimum Viable Product

Minimum Viable Products Are Great

If you’ve been exposed or are in the startup world you’ve probably heard the term minimum viable product – which basically means the barest minimum of a product, without all of the bells & whistles and extra features.

A minimum viable product has just those core features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. The product is typically deployed to a subset of possible customers, such as early adopters that are thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information. It is a strategy targeted at avoiding building products that customers do not want, that seeks to maximize the information learned about the customer per dollar spent. “The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” The definition’s use of the words maximum and minimum means it is decidedly not formulaic. It requires judgment to figure out, for any given context, what MVP makes sense.

It encapsulates the absolute core idea of a product, and nothing more. Typically, an MVP is developed quickly, and then released to the marketplace (the world) and then feedback is received on the MVP, and depending on what the feedback is, you then modify the MVP in order to more closely map to what the market wants, and then keep iterating until you get it right.

It’s a great way to run a startup – you start with an idea – put the minimum amount of effort in – at usually low cost and high speed, then you can quickly test if the idea will work out or not, based on what people say about it – then iterate.

I thought to myself – that not just a great way to build a startup – it’s also applicable to other aspects of life as well. In the same way that Agile Is Eating the World, isn’t the concept of an MVP perfect for any and all things that you would like to take on in life?

Here is the thing – never before have we been able to taste things – to not need to make the full plunge on things – as easily as we can today. If you want to do things, to experience things, you can just MVP them:

  1. Since work is so malleable, if you want to try and live somewhere else, just do it. In the future of work, you can work from anywhere, at any time, for anyone. If you want to try living in San Francisco, or Hawaii, or Thailand, or Singapore, or Greece, just go. See what it’s like. Try it out – if it doesn’t work, try something else.
  2. Don’t buy a car – try using Uber or Lyft or any other service that’s out there. Rent cars if you need to – try it for a while – see if it works, if not try something else.
  3. Don’t buy a house – it ties you down – what if you don’t like it. Taste it, try it, if not move on.
  4. Don’t go to college – in this super-fast changing world, do you really want to study the same thing for 4+ years? By the time you’re halfway through, the world will be completely different.
  5. In this world, Yoda’s “Do or Do Not, There Is No Try” no longer applies. In fact, Disney should go back and revise it to “Life Is Only Try”

Next time you’re about to make a big commitment, take a long hard look and see if there is a way to MVP it. If it doesn’t work, iterate, try again, and then if it goes nowhere, give it up and try something else.

— image: pat joyce