Innovation is more than the MVP.


Innovation is more than the MVP. It’s all about where you plan to go, not where you start out.

In the maker and entrepreneurial world right now, there is pressure to ship. If you aren’t shipping, you aren’t creating an audience or a customer base.

The minimal viable product (MVP) is the target. Get it out, so it can be working for you – delivering revenue or feedback from customers telling you how it needs to improve.

Yes, the MVP works as a basic version of what might come, but there is a risk. Without a strong brand and a trusted reputation, a bad MVP could do more harm than good.

If you’re a new company with a new idea, an MVP could really get you noticed. On the other hand, it might appear to sit outside of reason.

Product development theory requires makers to establish the context for their innovation product: to prepare the market. As part of this, it is useful to declare the trajectory your product will follow: we’re launching our new product that does this thing today, and next month we’ll add function X to make it even better.

You may not convert all your customers until version 2 is bought by the New Adopters, but some won’t be able to resist the urge to be first to buy: think of the lines in Apple Stores when the iPhone 8 was launched. Do you think the same buyers won’t reappear later this week for the release of iPhone X?

There have been some notable failures by the big brands recently, but they won’t stop the development of better versions in response to feedback. Here are a couple of examples (drop us a line if you want to see more):

1. Google Glass – all those bugs, and comments about looking like a nerd, will evaporate when Google Glass’s functionality has created a need beyond checking Facebook or taking a video.

We know that Alphabet’s X division is quietly developing Glass Enterprise Edition, and the signs are that Glass will be a far better product when the time is ready for consumer release.

2. Oh, how we love to bitch about Apple and love them at the same time. To supplement my Macbook, iPad, Airpods and my iPhone, I so [need] an Apple Watch Cellular Series 3.

But if I buy it in the US, there isn’t a way of connecting with my UK (EU) roaming service. Why? Well, maybe it has something to do with the need to pay EE £5 a month to use it independently.

This won’t turn me against Apple, but I do wonder why they seem intent on making life harder: new connectors, no connectors and now this. We know user accessibility will improve as networks get signed up, but to have an MVP this far into a product’s lifecycle surely hands straight the ball to Android.

3. Back to Google, this time in collaboration with Levi’s. Their brilliant concept of a Levi Trucker Jacket code-named Jacquard had all the cyclists in the room44 office buzzing. We couldn’t wait to shell out for it, until we realised we can only buy it in the US.

So that’s where I went, had the demo, fell in love again and then…unfortunately for the Innovators and Early Adopters, it ain’t quite what it’s cracked up to be.

First off, the smartphone functionality comes down to a cuff that can respond to five gestures – effectively rendering it a hands-free answering device, plus music start/stop. But only in the US. If you buy in the US to use it in the UK, the app ‘may not’ download to a UK phone, limiting the already narrow range of functionality. And on reflection, we decided that cycling with headphones is actually pretty stupid. There are enough cycle-related deaths, without adding to them taking a phone call in traffic by reaching across to swipe your cuff.

Finally – and here’s the clincher – as much as we crave the idea of wearing technology, in its current iteration the Jacquard jacket will only tolerate ten washes. This is a denim, non-waterproof, non-sweat-resistant commuter jacket.

Sexy, yes. Desirable, absolutely. Less than great MVP, totally.

These are all great products in development. Jeff Bezos said, “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon” and Google and Apple will likely make millions of dollars from these ‘failures’ too. But the discerning Innovator may decide to wait for things to get easier and better value for money.

After all, we do have options.