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El blog de Mikel Niño
Emprendimiento digital, startups, Big Data Analytics y nuevos modelos de negocio

Deconstructing the MVP: from "Minimum Viable Product" to "Minimum Valuable Proof"

The "Minimum Viable Product" (MVP), being one of the key elements in Lean Startup methodology, seems to be an easily misunderstood concept and whose essence is a bit difficult to grasp. A big part of this effect may be explained by our focusing too much on the specific words composing the "label" that Eric Ries decided to coin and the meaning they may have for us. That is why I usually explain the concept of MVP choosing other words which, apart from building the same acronym -therefore being easy to remember too-, might be closer to the real essence of an MVP. Thus, instead of talking about "Minimum Viable Product", I prefer to explain it as a "Minimum Valuable Proof". I will explain each word and the reason for this slight change in the label -but keeping the concept's essence-.

We can safely say that the idea of "Minimum" is quite clear :-) This is perhaps the part of the acronym that captures the "lean essence" of the method, avoiding the waste of resources and reducing the time that takes us to complete the "build-measure-learn" loop.

Regarding the "P", I think that paying too much attention to the idea of "Product" distracts us from the real nature of an MVP because, as Ramli John rightly says in this entry in his blog, "the MVP is not about the product". For this reason, I prefer to use the word "Proof" that we can understand in two different ways, both of them providing important keys about an MVP:
  • "Proof" understood as the process of proving, that is, an experiment, as this is the true nature of an MVP,
  • and "Proof" understood as the evidence we want to gather thanks to the MVP, as we don't experiment "for the sake of experimenting", but because we want to gather evidences that allow us to confirm the veracity of our hypotheses about the product and the business potential that we hope it has.

Concerning the "V", in my opinion it would be much more clarifying to keep the original idea of an MVP as something "Valuable" (i.e. delivering "Value"), as this allows us to explain a double-way relationship in the value we want to obtain from the experiment:
  • Value for the entrepreneurs, thanks to the validated learning that helps them to validate/refute their hypotheses and assumptions and to check whether they must persevere, modify some details, or pivot,
  • but also value for the potential customers, as the experience of interacting with the MVP must deliver the value (or recreate it the best possible way, according to the maturity and automatization of our solution) that we expect to provide our customers with by means of the final solution. In other words, the focus is not on the appearance of what we present to our potential customers, but on its ability to simulate in the best possible way the real context and use experience where the problem arises and the solution is applied (as a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a perfect example to illustrate this idea). Only by doing so can we obtain the right kind of feedback about our approach's potential.

[Haz clic aquí para la versión en español de esta entrada]

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