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”.