MVP vs. Minimal Product
To continue on the series of articles describing the critically important concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP), in this article I wanted to contrast this concept with what I call "Minimal Product."
So often I meet teams that tell me that they have identified their MVP, and I ask them how they have validated this, and I'm told that they've tested their prototype on customers and the results are excellent. But then I ask them how they tested MVP, and they proceed to describe a series of tasks that they measured whether or not users could successfully use the product.
Essentially, they have determined that their proposed product works. Or at least, it could work if the customers either choose to use it, or somehow had to use it (e.g. their employer made the purchase decision).
Unfortunately, there are countless products that would work if people choose to use them, but the problem is that people don't choose to use them. Maybe because they don't like the pricing. Maybe because they are happy with what they use today. Maybe because it is very hard for them to switch even if they wanted to. Or any number of other reasons why they don't buy the product.
This is why I consider the most important question not "could you use it?" but rather "would you use it?" (see http://svpg.com/the-most-important-thing/).
I use the term "Minimal Product" to refer to this smallest possible product that actually works. Unfortunately, that's often a long way from Minimum Viable Product which not only works, but is something that people actually choose to buy and use (see http://svpg.com/minimum-viable-product/).
So often teams confuse the two, and then they're surprised when the product doesn't sell. Or they'll blame marketing and sales.
Moreover, it is this "viable" part that's usually the hardest part of the equation, and is the highest risk, so it's where you need to focus most of your time in discovery.