What is the least you could do?

In the Innovation Lab at Intuit, we came up with a concept of minimum viable to describe our goal for initial product/service releases… the least bit of functionality that’s actually viable in the market, i.e., something can get real-, using- customer feedback. Why the least? Why don’t you worry about WOW’ing the customer with nifty features?

Minimum keeps you and the customer focused on the core of the pain you are trying to solve for them… or core of the joy you are trying to deliver. I often use the example of tuning and fine tuning on product definition. This should be your tuning stage… can customers “hear” the music you are trying to produce? Are they seeing what you are trying to solve? Can people use it to solve that problem? Do they use it in the way you thought? Do they use it for anything else?

Viable means you have to have something that works, and can function “in market”. This isn’t a prototype; it is actually delivering value. It might only solve one core problem. For example, we did customer research for Intuit’s Easy Estimate. The pain we were trying to solve was estimates for contractors. What was viable for this wasn’t just the calculation about the estimate. Actually, what we learned was viable was a site walkthrough checklist, going to an estimate (a calculation), going to a proposal (a document), going to QuickBooks once accepted. So, this had our focus for viable… not the depth of what could be needed for calculations. Get the flow right… additional functionality on calculations could come later, after the was actually being used in their workflow.

So, what do you think? Do you have good minimum viable examples? Do you have other concepts that have worked for you in figuring out how and when to launch? Or leading people in launching new products, services, or companies?

Oh, and why did this come up today? Because I’m finally launching this blog, and… it isn’t where I want it to be. It isn’t where I feel it will “wow” you in the way I want, and I worry you won’t come back and give me a second chance when I get there. For example, the header is plain; the tag cloud breaks; trackbacks are being included in comments; recent posts aren’t showing on the home page; the associated t-shirt store isn’t set-up… some of these are pretty major. I realized though I wasn’t living minimal viable, a concept I truly, deeply believe in.

So, what is on my shirt today?

Practice what you preach

P.S. I’ve launched a new tag with this post dba. When I post something that is a core value to me, like minimum viable is, I’m going to tag it is as “dba”, as in “doing business as Jana”.

3 thoughts on “What is the least you could do?

  1. First the bad…. Kelly told me tonight that she went to spreadshirt to see about letting the girls design their own… and came across the… well… family-unfriendly content.

    Next the good – as you know, my mind won’t turn off until I think of a solution… so I thought of virtual stores. “Hmmm… I wonder if they are already doing that?” Yep. Good show. Also, maybe a preference setting similar to Google’s Safe Search: default to a middlin’ setting.

    And, of course, as I think of one idea, more come to mind… the Spreadshirt Store Kiosk. Hmmm… I have a touch screen in the basement… Be totally cool. A kiosk for brick-and-mortars where people could design a shirt. I know that such a kiosk in my local Christian bookstore would do very brisk business. Maybe that’s what I’ll do on my next long weekend off 🙂

  2. Jana Eggers says:

    Hi, Matt,

    Thanks for the feedback. This is great, and yes, you are hitting on exactly the idea behind our shop partner functionality. The great thing too is that we can offer even more functionality if you want to let people design their own, including white and black lists if that’s needed.

    And, I agree we need to be able to work in a more family friendly way when people want. What’s the best way of doing that? Should we work w/ one of the safe net vendors? What is your feedback on that?


  3. Hi Jana,

    I believe that it might be difficult to use a safe net vendor, as they are structured to handle sites rather than filtering within a site. However, if they have some way of cataloguing bits of content and giving your scripts feedback on whether a page contains it, that would probably work.

    I like my idea of a Google-like filtering preference, but I don’t know the best way to implement it. The danger of filtering at least some content by default is that you might filter out some entire stores – not a good way to get people to create stores.

    This calls for experimentation. I’d start with a link that is placed on pages that return (from the safe net vendor) marked content that says something like “Filter this type of content for me”. Save it in a cookie. Then on pages that would have returned marked content, have “Show filtered content” or somesuch. Could all by dynamic HTML – very fast and responsive.

    If you can’t get the safe net vendor thing to work, you could probably task someone to mark it… I suppose it would be somewhat subjective – hence the advantage of working with the vendor.

    If the link didn’t work, maybe grab one of the various, recognizable ratings things and have it show up on a page with such content. It could even be a sort of disappearing watermark – flash it when the page first displays, then minimize it down to the link that makes the filter active. Animation shown only once a session/user.

    God Bless,
    – Matt

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