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8 steps to design an inspired MVP.

The MVP should be a prototype, not a product.

Marty Cagan

Marty Cagan is a founder partner at the SVPG and author of the highly influential book on creating tech products, Inspired. Amongst other things in the book, Marty mentions the importance of having a clear vision while building products. This point resonated with me, especially since having a vision or value is so central to the design process that I have been evangelizing.

Based on the book, here are 8 points that I feel we should keep in mind if we wish to create an inspired MVP.

1. The MVP is not a product

Very few people understand this. The aim of the MVP is to do a quick dipstick study about the feasibility. There is no way to know if an idea works or not before we put it in front of the users. And to do this, the best thing is to create a prototype and test it out. This will give you a little bit of an idea about some of the things you can’t really know.

In technology products, the most important thing is to know what you can’t know.

Marc Andreessen

2. The responsibility of the MVP should be given to a cross functional discovery team

This team should include product, engineering, design and all other important stakeholders. But design should take the lead on the deliverables. MVPs, after all, are not products, but prototypes. The discovery team could create technical proofs of concept, high fidelity animations or even a simple click through prototype. The team could use any process starting from simple brainstorming to five day design sprints that will help them come up with the prototype.

3. Start with the why

Here’s the process I use to uncover product values. Use the process to come up with a succinct statement in the following format:

Empower/Allow      [User]      To        [Verb or Action]      so that        [Result] .

This way to define the vision provides you with clarity and simplicity which can be used to develop the MVP.

3. Fall in love with the problem not the solution

Framing your problems accurately is more important than coming up with the solution. Once the problem is framed accurately (ideally using the above statement) you will find no dearth of solutions. So may work very well, while others may not. Do not be attached to the output. Focus on the outcome.

4. Don’t be afraid to think big

The value statement we develop needs to be inspirational and the subsequent MVP (Most Visionary Prototype) should be something that can be used as a rallying call for the subsequent development. One of the techniques I use to help team think big is the ‘Future Press Release’. This is a very useful technique

You can always use a back-casting exercise to scale down on the pilot release and determine priorities.

5. Determine and embrace meaningful trends

Don’t just copy a trend because it is in vogue, but make sure you are doing it for the right reason. Be like Gretzky, –

Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.

Wayne Gretzky

6. Dump the roadmap

The Values are more important than the strategies. And the strategies are infinitely more important than the execution. So if your decide on the execution and go with it as a plan, you will be missing out on a lot of important opportunities. Like Jeff Bezos puts it –

Be stubborn on vision; Flexible on details.

Jeff Bezos

7. Create complete design solutions

Just like Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there is an equivalent set of needs that users have. Make sure that when designing the MVP, all levels are addressed.

8. Evangelize continuously and relentlessly

Once your vision is ready, it needs to spread across the organization. Be a literal evangelist in this respect. Don’t loose any opportunity to spread the word.


  • Validate your strategy using prototypes. – Navneet Nair Designs

    March 3, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    […] 8 steps to design an inspired MVP. […]

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