Minimum Viable Product
Who’s the MVP?
On Wednesday night I had the opportunity to attend the Lean Start-up meet-up in NYC to talk about best practices in Minimum Viable Product development practices as described by Eric Ries. The iterative process of the MVP development cycle makes a ton of sense for early stage technology companies and I would encourage anyone building a web service or other product that can be updated with frequent releases to pursue the minimum viable product strategy.
Beyond my reading and my experience managing the development of websites and interactive media strategies and my reading about MVP, the conversation at the meet-up took me back to my roots in product development when I was carrying a bag of samples for AND 1 Basketball in 1998. I spent a lot of time in Footlockers and at playgrounds talking to kids about the shoes I had in the bag. I would lay the shoes out on a bench and watch the kids check them out. Some would talk and others would just look, but everyone had an opinion.
For me, this exercise became like a language study. I had to learn how to hear the meaning behind the words and find the common patterns and key themes that could inform our product development efforts. I would take my notes from these product testing sessions and head to Asia where I would work with the factories to build “what the kids want.” While samples were being built, I would spend time in Japan and Europe looking for trends and working with designers to sketch concepts based on what I saw. When the samples were complete, I would meet the Fed Ex truck at my hotel in NYC and head back up to 155th and 8th to talk to the kids again.
Soon these consumer conversations were allowing me to provide direction to the design team, to help the development team focus on the most relevant new processes to achieve new looks, support the factories in Asia with execution by limiting the sample requests through a more refined market perspective and elevate the brand by delivering more relevant products that were closer to the consumers’ needs and desires.
Looking outside your industry can be a source of inspiration and lead to real innovation and the tech world should learn from the best practices of consumer products companies that have been practicing MVP development for years. I have never had the handle to be the MVP at Rucker Park but if you are building technology and think my experience at AND 1 could help you implement the MVP process, I would love to talk.