Photo of a LEGO scene depicting a mad scientist and experiment
Business 2.0, Design

Crafting great experiments

I’ve recently been involved in designing and running a bunch of different experiments under Lean Startup principles with an emphasis on testing the value proposition and customer traction (rather than product-specific factors).

While on the surface the idea of experiments seems relatively straightforward, my experience has been they are trickier to get right than they first appear. Especially early in the development of a product or service.

We’ve had some #flearnings along the way that I thought would be valuable to share (to “fail informatively” to borrow the phrase from Clay Shirky). Continue reading

Side mirror of an accelerating car
Housekeeping, Sustainability, Work


Well, it’s been quite a while between posts here… so a bit of explanation is in order.

Shortly after I presented at the IxDA drinks last year, a number of my colleagues pointed me to the Energy XO program that was being launched by Western Australian electricity utility Horizon Power and (now defunct) startup accelerator Pollenizer.

It seemed like a great opportunity to connect with industry folks and participate in a two-day “microhack”—essentially a workshop to develop up business ideas in the electricity sector and to be introduced to the “startup science” process that Pollenizer had developed around Lean Startup principles.

Little did I know at the time that I would be one of four people selected to enter into the 12 week accelerator program! Continue reading

Diagram outlining a hierarchy of attributes for a minimum viable product
Business 2.0, Design

The role of delight in a Minimum Viable Product

A few weeks back a brief post from our friend Adrian @ Pure and Applied rekindled some previous thinking about the idea of a Minimum Viable Product.

(Vladimir Blagojevic has created a terrific introduction/guide to Minimum Viable Products for those that aren’t familiar with the term.)

Adrian’s post pointed to a wonderful diagram by Jussi Pasadena (@jopas)—an adapted version of this diagram is included at the top of this post—about what I think is a common misconception as to what a Minimum Viable Product is, focusing too heavily on the basic functional building blocks of a product or service offering.

I’ve previously termed this idea as the Minimum Inspiring Product. Other’s have circled around this same concept with different terminology: Minimum Lovable Product, Minimum Delightful Product etc. In essence, I think we’re largely referring to the same thing—that while it’s critically important not to get carried away with overbuilding, it is important to include in a product or service elements that delight. Continue reading

Business 2.0, Design

Minimum Inspiring Product

In agile management and lean startup circles I’ve seen mention of the concept of a Minimum Viable Product. A very rough summary of idea is: to create only the necessary features to get a product (or service) into the hands of actual customers to get feedback and start to evolve, refine and further develop based on actual usage, rather than hypotheses of what people might use.

The aim is to both reduce waste (by not investing effort where it’s not needed/warranted) and to help increase innovation potential by observing how people actually use the product, perhaps uncovering unexpected uses or directions that aren’t immediately obvious to the design team.

To be sure, this remains a pertinent goal, but in chatting with the crews at Interaction Consortium and infoding this past week, we’ve lamented the fact that creation a “minimum” and just “viable” product is just a little uninspiring — not necessarily something that gets the creative juices flowing.

In these conversations I suggested instead that perhaps we should aim for a “Minimum Inspiring Product” (MIP). “Inspiring” in two senses — firstly, it’s about building something that will not just meet minimum requirements, but what is likely to get people excited about the product — that unique twist that makes something remark-able (in the parlance of Seth Godin).

But inspiring also in the sense that it inspires use and action, and new ideas. Something that people will want to engage with. If the product is just the bare minimum, it’s less likely to inspire the level of engagement required to actually achieve the benefits of the incremental development approach (as outlined earlier).

This, perhaps, is what Buster Benson was suggesting when he said “People who talk about minimum viable products tend to focus more on the minimum and less on the viable.” (thanks to @infoding for the reference.)

I hate to drop in an Apple reference here, but I think that’s perhaps a fair description of what they have done with the iPod, iPhone and iPad lines. Each was lambasted for what it left out (suggesting a minimal approach), but they also managed to provide inspiration that ultimately drove commercial success. These weren’t a minimum viable product, as there was clearly much more delivered than a bare minimum, and each emphasised that inspirational aspect. They inspired action, play, exploration — and, I think one could argue, lust ;) — that has in part led to the success of the apps ecosystem.

Internally, of course, it’s still important to build iteratively, and in this sense the minimum is sometimes necessary — especially to make sure we respect the YAGNI principle. But in terms of releasing a product or service into the wild, perhaps the MIP is a better target.