MVP vs MLP & MDP
When I got my first PM job in 2019, I immediately purchased some popular Product Management books, including Marty Cagan’s “Inspired” and Dan Olsen’s “Lean Product Playbook”. I even made detailed notes for the latter. See here.
I loved the concept of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and immediately socialized the idea with the team. Creating products that provided minimal end to end functionality and iterating based on feedback made total sense.
However, I have learned that the idea of an MVP may actually hurt rather than help in certain contexts. If you are a scrappy startup trying to get to product market fit, the idea makes sense. If you are an established company serving enterprise customers in highly regulated domains like healthcare or financials services, the concept is far less useful.
Typically, these enterprises are buying expensive software licenses for mission critical applications solving well understood problems. They are interested in software that is fully functional rather than minimally viable.
MVPs are suitable when you get continuous feedback, allowing you to iterate rapidly. This is the case for consumer focused companies and many B2B SaaS startups. If you have a quarterly release cycle as many larger enterprises delivering complex software do, getting feedback once in a quarter simply does not allow you to iterate fast enough.
In these contexts, MVP driven thinking can have a more deleterious impact. It becomes an excuse for doing just enough, thinking short term and not challenging the status quo. Instead of MVP, we should be thinking MDP (Maximally Delightful Product) and MLP (Minimum Lovable Product).
When faced with a problem, I now encourage my team to think of the maximally delightful experience we can craft for the user. We need to forget about resource and technology limitations. This divergent thinking can help us identify solutions we would never consider with an MVP mindset.
Once we have imagined these possibilities, we can then focus on crafting a Minimum Lovable Product that has the critical ‘must have” features, the performance features that are integral to our product strategy as well as one or two features that delight.
As Brian Chesky1 says, when you have imagined an 11-star experience, crafting a 5-star or 6-star experience seems attainable.
Constraints can breed creativity, but if you think about constraints too early, you are simply knee capping your imagination, which leads to mediocre solutions.