The “How to Build an MVP” Image is Wrong

I like cutesy diagrams.

I’m sure there are others who have grown tired of these link-baiting, attention-grabbing, increase-my-Linked-In-Like-quota images that serve no purpose other than to get a “hell ya!!” from like-minded people.

Here’s the latest image that’s been garnering attention on Linked In, and Twitter, lately that needs debunking:


YES!!! Incremental!!! Deliver value sooner!!! Some guy on the internet created this, so it HAS TO be right!! The response from people who see this image is not unlike Carlton Bank’s reaction to having Will’s Chicktionary passed down to him.

This cutesy image is wrong.

Suppose your customer is a single dad with 3 kids?

In the right way to build an MVP, you’d do nothing more than piss your customer off, and they’d go somewhere else. In this case, the wrong way is the right way.

Suppose your customer is a family with 4 kids?

Both are wrong, unless you want to strap a couple of kids to the roof.

Suppose your customer wants to start an electric car company and wants a prototype?

Well, you can kiss that contract goodbye.

Suppose your customer is a rally car driver?

Sorry dude, you missed the first 4 races on the circuit while we followed a cutesy recipe on the internet because our CEO said we had to do lean startup.

Suppose your customerĀ is trying to ease congestion in the city by offering alternate transportation for people.

Well, then thisĀ diagram could be right in that context.

Now Jason, c’mon, you’re being flippant! We all KNOW this is just an image to get people to think differently about how to release products. No, it’s not. Images like this are dumbing down our society, and being used as a weapon so you can walk over to Bill in R&D and tell him he’s wrong and you’re right.

Ok Jason, now you’re reaching. Maybe so, but people new to Lean Startup will see this image and throw context out the window in order to ‘do the method right‘.

Passing off any simplified message as a ‘how to’ guide is nonsensical. By the time you read this sentence, 50 new companies will have been created around the world…and just as many will have died. If there was a right way to do anything, there would be no disruption, no innovation, no birth of new products and services and no death of irrelevant businesses.

Context matters, read this fantastic post by Mike Fishbein and then go talk to your customer.