Maximum Validated Learning

“Evolutionary quest for perfection, but with a feedback loop” – Pijush & Mahuya

There is no better time to fail and learn than now! We are living in a world where experimentation, trial and error and really understanding the pain points of the human beings involved in the process are critical dimensions. When it comes to problems involving human beings, data from the past is not necessarily predictive of the future and collaboration between people with varied perception of the problem is of utmost importance.  This where the need to test and fail comes to the fore. The most effective approach to test a hypothesis in small measures is Design Thinking and this “small measure” is Minimum Viable Product (MVP). 

Some of the earliest examples of MVP took ages to get to their final (or current) form. Time telling instruments for instance took thousands of years to get to the form that we are familiar with. But during the course of its journey, all the previous forms were true MVPs in themselves. They all had just those features that allowed them to be used by early adopters (and start giving feedback on).

Have a look at the following video that we created on evolution of time telling instruments. Some may say that its evolution but we say it’s Maximum Validated Learning.

It’s so easy to get the concept of MVP wrong; right from defining it to the actual execution. The most common misconception is that MVP is a product with minimum set of features. It could be minimum, but is it viableIs it potentially shippable? Does it resonate with early adopters? Is the product basic enough to test a hypothesis but functional enough to focus on user activities and conforms to the overall vision of the product? It’s never easy to get it right. The idea is to replace the traditional method of having a one dimensional feature list (based on business value) with a two dimensional map based on Customer Journey. 

Recall our last post on User Personas? The Persona is represented by his/her goals, needs, aspirations and pain-points. Each Persona has its own journey and interaction/touch points with the system. This is what we commonly refer to as the User Journey. This is where we capture the primary goal of the product or solution. 

The User Journey represents the end to end interaction between the user and the application (product or service) through its life-cycle. Each of the stages of this User Journey can further be exploded into a task flow that represents the interaction or process flow. This is where we define the main process or flow of the product or solution. 

Drill a level deeper and you have the features that a product or a service needs to have. This is where we create a list of feature for each of the stages. These can then be broken down into user stories and stack ranked based on priority.

Now comes the real (and hardest) trick. If we take the very first row of the prioritized feature of each stage, we can come up with a working skeleton. This represents the smallest possible representation of a usable product. The idea is to take the take the top prioritized items from each of the stages of the user journey and what you would have is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

One might argue that the idea of MVPs could be a waste of time. Detractors may say, why spend time and effort on building a prototype that might never get completed or might be too simple to appeal to the target segment.

Well, the idea is to get an opportunity to see firsthand how your target customers use and perceive a product, which focus groups or boring surveys don’t. Proponents of MVP can find solace in what William Edward Hickson said:

 ‘Tis a lesson you should heed:

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try, try again.’

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Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook

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