If we focus on this ‘down-to-earth’ thinking, we can have better chances to execute our learning journeys in the face of great odds.
The assumption is made that though this is the case, it will still catch the attention of the market.
We know things about it, such as that it is located in the lean start-up domain. According to a search on HackerNoon, there are 289 articles tagged MVP at this point in time. Ultimately, a lot has been said because it’s a very promising world.
Although promising, the journey into MVP deserves special consideration precisely because the pioneers that went there are sending us unambiguous messages explaining the formidable and frightening nature of that world.
I know this report is not as standard as the other technical reports about MVP. But I wanted us to reflect on our first trips in this space. In the next section, I will report about one of my recent trips and how a reflection about the process is helping my next trip to have better chances, I hope.
Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, March 17th 2022:
This is Marcio S Galli - the CEO of The Meplex Start-up Project. I am traveling at a reasonable high speed towards the MVP world to meet and run experiments with target subjects.
Initially, I didn’t know that I was going towards MVP, but I have accepted to abide by recommendations from mentors of my residency program. They asked me to go towards the MVP, have subjects, and test solution hypotheses on them.
In this report, I will start by showing my plan for approaching these subjects and reflect on unexpected learnings from my mission. If I had to give my subjects a persona, I would call them architects. They can be he or she; I don’t know.
Having learned from missions by MVP practitioners, I knew that it would be good to know ahead of time about my subjects. I had guesses about their needs, but I confess that I felt pressured to accelerate towards the MVP and establish first contact.
The following quote from MVP explorer Maitrik Kataria illustrates what I think was a complication in my mission:
They can’t answer or haven’t done any customer/market research to validate their ideas. We strongly believe that any spec document or feature list should not exist if you haven’t validated it through user interviews or talking with potential customers. (Maitrik Kataria @ Hackernoon, 2017)
With that said, I wanted to report that I didn’t engage with my subject like an astronaut lost in a vacuum. I have attached my product management helmet, trying to be as professional as possible. Voilà, I was able to identify a process to justify my approach - the concierge MVP:
You can also try out the Concierge Minimum Viable Product. It is an MVP where you manually provide the functionality of the product to the customer to test out the product ideas. (Maitrik Kataria @ Hackernoon, 2017)
I continued to approach my architect subject. The interaction device that I have chosen was a chat messaging channel - an instant messaging device known as Whatsapp. My subject was on one end, and I was on the other end.
I came up with learning goals which were more like statements to watch out from the interactions with them:
My situation was challenging because extracting learning outcomes from highly subjective messaging conversations is complicated. What I did seemed like a mixed interaction experiment like a consulting mixed with an interview - a dangerous path to enter when considering the classic MVP process or even the concierge MVP approach that I have decided to use. As indicated, it would be better to have done the homework of knowing my subject's needs beforehand.
I thought that MVP practitioners would dismiss my situation, thinking that I simply didn’t engage correctly with the right approach to enter the MVP space. If they were friendly, they would argue that some events from my trip interactions would be helpful to a future MVP journey. But for them, what I did is not an excuse to not learn with customers beforehand.
With the above considerations noted, the conversations with the subjects seemed valid anyway. Therefore, I have used the opportunity to wear the product manager’s helmet again and learn with the interaction to improve the process for the next trip.
The following are some of the aspects extracted from the exchange:
Observing and annotating the chat interaction - Having developed the conversation using a chat, using human-based asynchronous messages, one could look at the situation like a black box full of subjectiveness. What I did to learn was: I have returned to the first chat message reading one by one and checking all of them, identifying/categorizing the moments. I was able to match aspects of my conversations with my original questions. Copy that, hacker!
A side peer-review process - As the conversations with the subject progressed, I was able to develop a prototype, a valuable service offered to my subject. But since it was all subjective, I have decided to show the prototype to peer reviewers (not similar subjects but acting mentors) to get feedback about what was delivered. These peers revealed that the prototype had flaws (in terms of quality) that could impact the subject’s responses.
Interpretation of the review process - After the reviews, writing down, and reflecting, I have improved my decisions on what to do in terms of the next MVP trip. For example, I knew right away some easy things to fix. This interpretation exercise also provided hints that different strategies could apply in terms of the interaction with the subjects.
Recognition of other factors impacting evaluation - The data from this review process has opened my mind to consider how the prototype presented had flaws. This notion has helped me look at other projects and learn how user experience affects interaction evaluation.
These topics are examples pulled from analyzing what has happened as the conversations progressed. There are other things to consider, I know.
MG, aka Marcio S Galli, Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, March 17th 2022.
To close this report, I wanted to first bring an observation by Brand, a scientist character from Interstellar:
Professor Brand - “I thought I knew relativity, but reality is different" (Interstellar)
When I went to the MVP world and returned, I felt the same. I thought I knew about the theory, but it was a different reality as I engaged in that concierge MVP experiment.
I hope this writing serves as a reminder for us pioneers and founders to reflect on the process. The process observation is a critical step to our learning journey (a) and (b) that evaluating the process can be vital for improving the plan of action of our future MVP trips.