Illustrated by: Sasha Kolesnik

The MVP (minimally viable product) approach is a basic practice of the Agile software development. It’s also an undisputed part of product development to help your product find its market quickly. 

An MVP can make sense from the smallest dorm room startups all the way to the largest companies. We all share the same need to move fast and learn.

But does anyone actually demand a minimally viable product? And if everyone follows the same practice, how does a product stand out in a crowded market? Different companies may need different strategies.

There is a common misconception with MVP. According to Eric Ries, who helped popularize the concept with his book Lean Startup, an MVP allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. Ideally, product teams are meant to gather learnings, and adapt their product based on those learnings. It does not have to do with an MVP release of minimal functionality. 

Product managers have a tough job. Oftentimes, they continue to have to follow both waterfall and agile methodogies. While most companies have moved from waterfall to agile development, many organizational cultures still expect to have roadmaps, executive approval, finalized designs, detailed specifications and firm timeline commitments. When an MVP becomes a rigid singular software release, it risks underperforming.

I’ve written previously about how to stand out as a designer, and one of those techniques is to over-deliver on the work. The same can also be true for successful design teams. Ben Blumenrose, the co-founder of Designer Fund, and Stripe investor shares how to embed design into Fintech, “Design has had an impact at Stripe because it is valued, nurtured from the top, and focuses on making a positive impact on people.” Stripe design is known for its obsessive attention to detail and craft and yes, that takes more time, “We would say we simply spend 20x more time on this than what anyone else would.” --Malthe Sigurdsson, Head of Design, 2015-2020. Having a unique product strategy may help you create a unique product and a differentiated result. 

How do you make sure design has an impact? My former professor, Maria Guidice, executive leadership coach and former design executive at Facebook and Autodesk describes the type of top-down support needed. “I often say for people who are coming in as senior designers whose job it is to bring design culture, bring design methods, organize workforces, you better look up—and if the people above you do not have your back, if they don’t understand why you’re there, they don’t understand the value that design can bring, then that’s a huge red flag. You have to have executive support. You have to have enlightened leaders at the top in order for design leaders to be successful, because they have a large, hard job ahead of them to change culture.”

So make sure you look up! What does your company value? What's their unique product strategy? Do they understand your role? Will they support the inevitable, and unknown change you will need to offer?