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MVP Ideation Canvas

The MVP Ideation Canvas is a lean startup framework that helps in defining the key elements of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). It provides a structure to define the problem that the MVP aims to solve, the target customers, the hypotheses you want to validate, and the metrics you can use to measure your results. It also offers a structure to analyze what elements of the Human, Business, and Technology dimensions you need to include in the MVP.

The benefit of this MVP framework is that it helps you in thinking about all the elements of your MVP, before you set off to building it. When used by product teams, it creates alignment and transparency among the team members and key stakeholders for a new product idea. And because an MVP is intended to validate hypotheses in market, this framework helps you to consider additional elements of desirability (Human dimension), viability (Business dimension), and feasibility (Technology dimension).

The Minimum Viable Product

An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is the minimum set of functionalities that allows you to validate your product idea and assumptions with real customers. The goal of an MVP is to learn in the fastest/easiest/cheapest way if your idea is valid, and then pivot if necessary.

The concept of an MVP was initially formulated by Steve Blank and popularized in the book “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.

Key elements of an MVP

When planning your MVP, there are four key elements of a good Minimum Viable Product that you should consider:

The MVP’s goal is to validate hypotheses and assumptions. You need to be clear about what assumptions you are making about your product, your business model, and your customers. Then build an MVP that helps you validate these hypotheses in the fastest/easiest/cheapest way.

The MVP should be made available in market as a working version of your product that customers can use. It’s not a prototype or a mock-up. It’s something customers can use so that you can assess your assumptions and validate if your product delivers value to your customers.

The purpose of the MVP is to learn. This means that you may forgo revenue or other key elements of your business model in favor of getting your MVP out in the market as quickly as possible and learn from your customers.

The MVP is iterative. Rather that building an all-encompassing product that takes months to build and delivers all value at once, focus on your key hypothesis and build your first MVP. Learn and validate with it, and then build your next version. Continue indefinitely.

Validate key hypotheses and assumptions

Among the many hypotheses that you may have while building your product, there are at least three areas that are usually part of the initial validation:

1 – The problem: Have you focused on the right problem to solve? Do customers feel that problem strongly enough to care about a solution?

2 – The product: Is your solution a good fit for the problem? Does it actually solve it? Do customers care using it compared to other alternatives?

3 – The market: Are customers willing to give you something of value in return for your product? Are they willing to pay to have the privilege to use it?

As you work through your product idea and mature a likely solution, your hypotheses will likely evolve, expand, and refine. Make sure to define the hypotheses that you need to validate, and use this initial understanding to design your MVP.

Example of use

Here is an example of an MVP Ideation Canvas simulated for the MVP of Airbnb. The MVP was launched at the time of the Democratic Party convention in Minneapolis in 2008, when all the hotels were booked and travelers were seeking alternative accommodations.

MVP Ideation Canvas for Airbnb

Example of use

Here is an example of an MVP Ideation Canvas simulated for the MVP of Zappos. The MVP was launched in 1998 using a “Wizard of Oz” approach with a WordPress front-end and no inventory of shoes available. The founder received orders online, purchased shoes at a local store, and shipped the shoes to the buyer.

MVP Ideation Canvas for Zappos

How to use the MVP Ideation Canvas

We have created the MVP Ideation Canvas to help teams plan their MVP and create consensus around the key elements they want to validate. This can be a great exercise to do together with your team at the beginning of a new project, or at any times you may need to plan the next release.

Download and print the MVP Ideation Canvas on a large format paper, post it on the wall, and gather your team around it. Or put that in your favorite online collaboration tool. This is a great collaboration framework to create alignment within the team about the core elements of your MVP.

Follow these steps for a quick application of the canvas:

  1. Everyone works solo and writes on stickies their thoughts on each of the elements of the MVP Ideation Canvas (goals, customers, hypothesis, etc.).
  2. Everyone shares what they have created and puts the stickies on the canvas
  3. The team, working together, incorporates and refines each member’s contribution and defines the team’s plan for an MVP

Download the MVP Ideation Canvas and use it to define your MVP – or multiple MVPs: you can use one canvas for each MVP.

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