Making Sense of the Minimal Viable Product

Making-sense-of-MVP-If you have some interest in Agile or Lean Startup, than you probably know this picture. It’s created by Henrik Kniberg a couple of years ago. Whenever I show this visualisation it leads to a discussion. Some people like it and find that it captures the essence of iterative & incremental development. Some people dislike it for oversimplifying things. Recently Henrik Kniberg wrote a great article in which he clarifies the thinking behind it. So if you’re interested in the idea behind this famous visualization, read the original article. In this blog post I’ll only share some of the highlights I’ve taken from the article “making sense of MVP – and why I prefer Earliest Testable/Usable/Lovable”.

Build Iteratively and Incrementally

The Skateboard

  • We’re not trying to make the customer happy at this point. Our main goal at this point is just to learn.
  • We focus on the underlying need the customer wants fulfilled.
  • Turns out that his underlying need is “I need to get from A to B faster”, and Car is just one possible solution to that.
  • We’re still aiming to build a car, but in the meantime please try this and give us feedback
  • The key question is “What is the cheapest and fastest way we can start learning?

The Kid’s Scooter

  • Is the customer happy with a kid’s scooter? Not really, he still kind of wants that car.
  • But in the meantime the customer is actually using this product, and giving us feedback.

The Bicycle

  • The bicycle may turn out to be a much better product than the car originally envisioned.
  • No matter how much up-front analysis you do, you’re still surprised when you put the first real release into the hands of a real user.

The Motorcycle

  • Maybe the customer is happy with the motorcycle. We could end the project earlier than planned.
  • The iterative approach is really a way of delivering less, or finding the simplest and cheapest way to solve the customer’s problem.

The Car

  • We may in fact end up with the exact same car as originally envisioned.
  • However it is much more likely that we gain vital insights along the way and end up with something slightly different.

Identify Your Skateboard

  • Think of the skateboard as a metaphor for the smallest thing you can put in the hands of real users, and get real feedback.
  • Shamelessly put the skateboard in the hands of real users and validate hypotheses
  • It’s all about early feedback from real users!

Avoid the Term MVP

  • For some customers, MVP = MRC (Minimum Releasable Crap)
  • Few customers want “minimum” but most customers want “early”!
  • Also remove the word “Viable” since it’s too vague.

Use the Term “Earliest Testable/Usable/Lovable Product


  • Earliest Testable Product is the skateboard or bus ticket – the first release that customers can actually do something with.
  • Earliest Usable Product is perhaps the bicycle. The first release that early adopters will actually use, willingly.
  • Earliest Lovable Product is perhaps the motorcycle. The first release that customers will love, tell their friends about, and be willing to pay for.


While studying this article I simultaneously wrote some highlights I wanted to remember. It resulted in this blog post. Please read the original article for the full context: Making Sense of MVP.