MVP is a State of Mind, not a Version Number

I am not the heaviest of Quora users, but last week I saw three game designers I like and respect (Daniel James, Chris Carella, and Adrian Crook) answer the question, “How can we apply the idea of “minimum viable product” to online games? … What and where is the “minimum” of MVP reached for games?” Definitely check out their answers, but I wanted to chime in with a comment of my own.

A “minimal viable product” is about early validation (or invalidation).

A startup is never really validated until it is a smash success across both customer adoption and business model. Neither funding nor media hype counts.

I do not think of “MVP” as a single version or a point in time. Startups are not that binary. Rather, it is a state of mind and an ongoing process. Your goal is to validate/invalidate your ideas with reasonable confidence with the least amount of work, and “validate with confidence” is a moving target.

“MVP” is also entirely context-specific. It is not a tactic, or number of features, or level of UI sophistication. Your specific market/customer will define how much you need to accomplish before you can make your next wave of decisions based on user actions and feedback. However, be painfully ruthless with yourself and your product to-do list. It is insanely easy to convince yourself that you need more features than you actually do. Remember to focus on the core — what, at the very root of things — are you about? And how can you test that as simply as possible?

  • Excellent post. The “trick” is figuring out the MVP. For years now I’ve used the acronym “JEF” as in Just Enough Features. Whatever you call it, it’s all about customer validation and how fast can you find the magic feature list that generates “escape velocity”.

  • I agree, although I still wish it was called Minimum Viable Test. A product should provide some value to the customer. A landing page with a signup form might give some level of validation, but it is not a product.

    • I probably don’t disagree, although in the end I lump all the non-product stuff into the customer development / validation bucket

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  • I really should have answered that question in more detail – was just short on time. Thanks for the shout out though, and spot-on article.

    One of these days I want to comb through Quora and do a big brain dump…