sábado, 26 de maio de 2012

The widespread adoption of Eric Ries's work beyond Silicon Valley has been a godsend for innovators. The Lean Startup has crystallized many of the ideas fundamental to successful innovation and provided companies with additional ways to understand and make room for rapid iteration, agile development, and in-market testing of new ideas. At IDEO, we frequently refer to Ries's work to help clients understand approaches to innovation, and believe that we have identified a few helpful best practices that build on the approach defined in The Lean Startup.
Cut the fat, not the essence
In the pursuit of a minimum viable product (MVP), we've seen that it's important to evaluate early the critical components that will differentiate an offer from competition and make a product truly viable.
An MVP should be the easiest way to test your hypothesis, but that doesn't mean that building one is easy. A common mistake is refusing to tackle the tough technical problems that create revolutionary offerings. As Ries writes, some entrepreneurs hear "minimum viable" product as "smallest imaginable" product. This misunderstanding of Lean Startup tenets can have expensive consequences. Sometimes, entrepreneurs miss a key opportunity to establish market differentiation by interpreting the "minimum" component of an MVP to mean "nothing challenging." Worse, they sometimes create a product that's not competitive by rationalizing that they can get 'something like' the core idea by replacing a feature with something easier to implement.
One best practice we've identified is to always ask: Are certain challenging features critical to your value proposition? Would investment in these features lead to a revolutionary offering, or a valuable and differentiating capability? By addressing essential challenges before MVP launch, companies can gain years of advantage on their competition. Square faced these squarely and debuted a truly revolutionary MVP. They had to structure themselves as a "mega-merchant" to help simplify the sign-up experience for new customers. This drastically reduced the barriers to adoption faced by competitors like GoPayment, which had a virtually identical value proposition. Meanwhile, Square resisted adding more than the minimal features, keeping the user experience simple. I often tell clients not to shirk the tough problems — cut the fat, not the essence.

Prototype multiple MVPs in tandem
Even in the multi-week sprints to develop an MVP, a concept can develop a strong halo effect, anchoring a startup team in a single idea. Because of previous investments and sunk costs, the group may feel that the concept is better than it actually is when compared to other possible options. The prospect of pivoting down the line can encourage entrepreneurs to pursue a passion to build without evaluating their hypotheses up front. But successful ventures don't just dive into a single direction, confident that if they're wrong they can drastically change course. The reality is that a single concept is a collection of variables expressed as a whole. Some are core to the vision, while others are educated guesses.
Sketching or mocking up experiential prototypes and then testing them with consumers or potential partners, while also explicitly jotting down your operating and business assumptions and using them to discuss the business with industry experts, allows you both to pick a promising route to invest in the development sprint and to pivot with confidence. For example, by prototyping multiple consumer experiences and business models before investing in an initial MVP, GoGo was able to launch an airline WiFi and in-flight service experience that combined the best of multiple alternative services that might be offered in flight. One might think of this approach as testing multiple MVPs in parallel. Creating multiple options in tandem creates more confidence in the core variables, which in turn means that pivots may be less drastic or disruptive later on. This approach can be applied beyond product features to business models and operating approaches as well.
Traditional linear approach:
Standard sequential pivot approach:
Recommended approach:
This kind of work can be done with a very small team, and incurs drastically less development cost than a new product version. It can also help you gauge the tradeoff between higher investments in R&D and whether more difficult features are actually necessary to the minimum viable product. Furthermore, exploring many options in a rough way allows the team to test a variety of ideas simultaneously and by summarizing the resulting insights, the team can generate a common mental model to guide future designs.
Include a strategic business model hypothesis
The entrepreneurial crowd has recently expanded its passion for technology to embrace user experience design. Embracing smart business model design is coming more slowly. Nevertheless, a hypothesis for how your business can eventually become a profit-making entity is an essential component of any MVP. The New York Times paywall is one example of this principle in action. Like many newspapers in a time of rapid change, the NYT knew its old model was broken and decided to experiment with new models. First, they experimented with requiring payment for only some features (op-eds). When this failed, the NYT used what they'd learned to launch their current paywall model, which they continue to refine.
Entrepreneurs sometimes find it easy to underestimate the pull of commitments to a venture's 1.0 instantiation and imagine a bold product innovation pipeline that ultimately never reaches fruition. Thinking about the business model early means not making sacrifices later. Is your economic model at odds with some of your stakeholders? Has someone else already tried what you're doing? Like a product feature, the idea is not to perfect the economic model prior to building the MVP, but to have some idea that the economics you are proposing will set the venture up for eventual profitability and a low-friction scaling process.
Consider and retain the passion-igniting elements
No matter how lean and agile you're running, it's the personal, passion-igniting elements that differentiate a great venture from a merely good one. Instagram, for example, stayed true to existing types of film processes, which inspired the original developers and ultimately lent the product authenticity. The simplicity and elegance of Instagram interactions drew in professional photographers, and their authenticity appealed to amateur photographers. These passion-igniting elements were ultimately worth one billion dollars to Facebook. Going the extra mile to stay true to your company's (and your own) values has the added benefit of rallying customers and employees (a much overlooked aspect of any entrepreneurial venture). One company that illustrates this principle is Revolution Foods. Their mission is to arrange for healthy cafeteria foods for schoolchildren, and they recognize that the combination of low price and proper nutrition is key to their success. It's a focused challenge, but a difficult one, which helps rally governments, employees, parents, and customers alike.
Don't get too fixated on the present market landscape
What's your venture's unique point of view on how the market will evolve or be disrupted? The market is a moving target, and often the biggest opportunities require building for emerging changes in technology, behaviors, and values. Apple continues to provide examples of how bold technical innovations can create new norms. Take Siri, for instance. Voice plug-and-play options have existed for years; Siri was an acquisition that other software or hardware providers could have purchased. So why didn't they? Most likely, other companies simply found it too challenging to imagine the necessary new consumer behaviors taking hold. Now, hardware and software providers are hustling to see how voice input can provide improved interactions — and voice seems to be a go-to tool. Once again, a single company has altered the market landscape. How will your next MVP change the future?

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