How To Know If Your Minimum Viable Product is Actually Viable
Every innovator has an idea of what the successful version of their product will look like. But one of the failings of a typical MVP is that it usually results in more questions than answers.
We want to believe that just getting the product out to market is a win. Selling a few units, generating those first revenue dollars, analyzing that initial data, those feel like the steps that will ultimately show us which levers to pull, which features to prioritize, which segments to target. After that it should all be academic.
But the gap between an initial plan and a viable product is filled with false positives. I’ve spent enough time at the bleeding edge of product development to know that I can always find data that guarantees a winner. I’ve also spent enough time back at the drawing board to not be swayed so easily.
So let’s talk about whether or not your MVP is really viable.
Viability and the (False) Coincidence of Failure
Despite conventional wisdom, failure doesn’t sneak up on us. We get plenty of warning signs. Whether or not the product fails usually comes down to whether or not we react to those signs.
There’s a pattern I notice a lot. Smart, talented person gets a great idea, spends a lot of time and brainpower developing the MVP, takes it to market with solid results, goes all in. Then the thing immediately nosedives.
This is not coincidence. The product wasn’t viable.
A more positive pattern I notice is when that same smart, talented person follows the same process and stops to take a breath at some point. When this happens, what at I usually hear is one of these generalizations:
- “It’s good, but it’s not great.”
- “There’s something missing but I can’t put my finger on it.”
- “I know it will be a success, but I don’t know why.”
- “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
In all of those cases, the smart, talented person sees the warning signs but might not even know that what they’re looking at are indeed warning signs. They have data and anecdotes and all the reasons why the MVP will be a…