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Minimum viable audience

In product management, we are always looking to validate ideas as quickly and as reliably as possible and then build from there. The thinking being that committing to building a huge feature that takes six months of work might lead to a place where we realise at the end of those six months that what was built doesn't really solve for the problem we initially thought it would. And we would have spent a ton of resources in this endeavour only to have it go to waste.

Instead, if we built a minimum viable version of it, which would be good enough for the users to adopt and help us validate that we are on the right track, we could probably spend one tenths the time and resources. This is a good way to de-risk our efforts and reduce the downside of failures. In a business where only one in a hundred ideas succeed, this is a wise approach to take.

However, we often kid ourselves about what minimum viable is. We roll out a hacky half-assed version of the idea or product or feature and hide behind the desire to validate ideas with minimum viable products quickly.

We tend to ignore the viable in the minimum viable product. Just because it is a minimal version meant for validating the idea, it doesn't mean that the quality of the experience can be sacrificed. When the MVP is not viable, then the whole purpose of releasing it is lost.

One way to ensure that we are building a minimal product that is viable is to internalize the concept of the minimum viable audience. It is the minimum number of people that are needed for an idea to spread. It is the critical mass that is needed to be reached in order for the idea to spread itself from there on.

A good way to define an MVP is to start by defining the minimum viable audience. When a product or a feature is built especially for this audience to address their needs elegantly, then they will talk about it and invite their friends and colleagues to give it a try.

The goal of the MVP is to see if we can get this minimum viable audience talking and spreading the word for us.

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