Thinking Out Loud

5 quick wins to achieve MVP — and how it’s almost impossible to decide if you’re on the right track

5 quick wins to achieve MVP — and how it’s almost impossible to decide if you’re on the right track

1. Map out the MVP based on your gut and understanding of the market.

Talk to people who know the market you are entering.
You will not like what you hear all the time.
Regardless, write it all down, and get yourself educated.
Your gut feel is really important, but only if it’s based on some decent understanding.

ACTION : Write a “wikipedia” article on your chosen problem. This will help you define the problem, which is half… nope, it’s 99% … of the challenge.


2. Don’t prototype features or functionality that cannot be implemented.

There’s a small proportion of the world who can see the invisible, relate to the concept, and imagine what could be.
You are one of them, but don’t ever, ever, show unfinished concepts to the rest of the world.
Even your good friend, or to your wealthy cousin. They will shit on your parade.
Implement what you can.
Shelve the rest, for when your concept is proven, and you can take some risks.

ACTION : List the features that you or your suppliers can implement immediately.


3. Remove features that feel unnecessary.

“Feature Creep” leads directly to the “death march” of any software project
Always and regularly, you need to ask the hard question – “if I remove this, will it make a significant difference?”
You must be prepared to ditch your well-loved ideas, if they don’t contribute to the CORE of the offering.

ACTION : Cut, slash, burn. If you were to remove this feature, and almost nothing changes, then ditch it completely.


4. Combine features that can be combined: simplify.

As Thoreau said – “simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.”
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Einstein
Most projects ultimately fail by being too complex, by trying to solve too many problems at once.
If you can distill your idea into a single sentence, then you are about to find the solution.
Actually, this is probably the hardest of all the steps. Especially when you are moving into new territory.

ACTION : If you can achieve 80% with a simpler combination, then do that.


5. Check the flows and feedback loops. Are you solving the problem you set to solve?

Yikes. If I was asked where to concentrate most effort and time, this is it.
It is so easy to get caught up in the moment, caught the excitement of what you’re doing.
Make it a priority to take a step back.
Ask yourself “Is this URGENT thing actually IMPORTANT?”
“Are we actually solving the original question, or are we futzing around with an unimportant detail?”

ACTION : Get an impartial bystander. Make sure you have someone on hand, from the get-go, who really does not care about your idea either way, and they feel free to tell you what’s wrong with what you’re doing. It’s hard, but for millennia kings have had their court jesters for just this reason. The jester role is to poke fun at the infallible, to ask the hard question of WHY?. . Learn from their wisdom.


(6 bonus). Is the system dynamic enough? Will it be alive?

Products that we fall in love with have a vital quality to them.
They feel great, respond right and delight us with their simplicity and the way they solve problems.
They feel different. They feel alive.

ACTION : Use your own product. Use it daily. If you don’t feel great EVERY time you use it, if it doesn’t give you goosebumps.. then you really gotta figure out why.

Alex Iskold argues that the key to the vitality of new business ideas are feedback loops. This is what makes natural systems alive and this is what makes great software alive as well.


Believe it or not, I love really messy problems. The stuff that stumps people. The things you think just can’t be fixed. I’ve been writing specialised business software since the 80’s, and internet-delivered solutions since 1995. If you know of anyone who is struggling with a new idea, or struggling to resolve an existing problem, I’d be happy to help.

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