23 April 2010

Framing Product Development

Language helps us to frame problems and challenges.

George Lakoff introduced me to how language frames arguments in the political sphere.

Today I attended the DevJam simulcast of the Startup Lessons Learned conference. This global meetup was the brain child of Eric Ries. Eric coined the concept of Minimum Viable Product and is the cheerleader of the lean-startup movement.

Minimum Product

Now I have heard of
  • Minimum Viable Product;
  • Minimum Desirable Product; and
  • Minimum Feasible Product.
It seems all the Minimum Product ideas are hypothesis-driven approaches to product development. That is, with a product hypothesis, or hypotheses, one builds as much as needed to test the product hypotheses.

One of the take-aways I got from Startup Lessons Learned is there are several ways to linguistically frame software product development. Viable, Desirable, and Feasible are Framing words - they frame how we think of our product development.

Andrew Chen, a conference panelist, introduced me to Minimum Desirable Product. Minimum Desirable Product is the simplest experience necessary to prove a high-value, satisfying product experience.

Andrew adds Minimum Feasible Product to the mix, then distinguishes differences between Viable, Desirable, and Feasible.

Viablethink business
Desirablethink user experience
Feasiblethink engineering

Desirable hits my sweet spot.

Viable, while helpful, has a air of life support about it. Feasible, also helpful, has a hint of the analysis-paralysis syndrome.

Desirable Resonates

Desirable resonates because it implies an emotional reaction. Emotions spark viral movements. Startups, like viral movements, are predicated on reaching a Gladwellian Tipping Point.

The inventor's challenge is to change minds & behavior.

In Switch, Chip and Dan Heath argue for appealing to The Elephants and The Riders. The emotional side of change is The Elephant. The rational side of change is The Rider. They say,
"The Elephant's hunger for instant gratification is the opposite of the Rider's strength, which is the ability to think long-term, to plan, to think beyond the moment."
Our software products need desirability at their core. They must inspire and appeal to emotions - to satisfy The Elephants in us, but then, over time, they must also provide lasting value - to satisfy The Riders in us.

Start with the goal of desirable. Desirable gets us into the game.