The pitfall of low-effort MVPs in innovation
“Build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and iterate” is common advice in the startup world. While the core principle is solid—launch quickly, learn from real users, and iterate—some misinterpret this to mean creating the simplest, smallest thing imaginable.
However, MVP doesn’t mean “low effort”; it means “minimal viable.” Understanding the viable aspect is crucial for genuine innovation.
What’s wrong with a low-effort MVP?
A low-effort MVP can be deceivingly appealing. It’s quick to market, demands fewer resources, and seems agile. But there’s a dark side. Such MVPs can be:
- Misaligned with user needs: They may not solve the real problem well enough to attract users.
- Inadequate for market fit: A too-basic product may not give you meaningful metrics.
- Limited in vision: Skimping on features might not present the full value proposition, making it tough to compete or differentiate.
Understand the problem first
Before diving into what your MVP should be, you must thoroughly understand the problem you’re solving. This could involve market research, user interviews, and competitive analysis.
Skipping this step can result in a lackluster product that misses the mark on delivering real solutions.
When bigger is better
Sometimes the minimal viable product is not that minimal. For instance:
Elon Musk couldn’t launch a budget electric car right away. The MVP was a high-end Roadster to prove electric cars could be desirable and effective.
It started as an online bookstore, not a retail juggernaut. But even that required substantial backend, supply chain, and customer service infrastructure.
How to determine your true MVP
- List core features: These are the features without which the problem can’t be adequately solved.
- Prioritize: Determine what’s absolutely necessary for viability.
- Estimate resources: Make a realistic assessment of what it will take to build these features well.
- Build, test, iterate: Only after steps 1-3 should you proceed to development.
An MVP should be as simple as possible but not simpler. Skipping on essentials can shortchange your innovation and market potential.
A thorough understanding of the problem and solution landscape helps to build an MVP that is not just minimal, but viable and aligned with your long-term vision.