Minimum viable product. It's something that most of us working on a product or project know we should do, but hard to actually do in practice.
For me as an engineer, it was particularly hard because you have the ability to build, and you like doing it. Therefore you're use to building something first, and then showing it to people. That's because just telling people that you have something without having actually built it just seems like...lying.
Half the problem of an MVP is picking the right scope for your problem. But beyond that, there are other reasons that might derail you from building an MVP.
Often times, we don't know what actual MVP might look like. Other times, we have fear that gets in the way of letting us release MVP. I'll tackle the first, and then the latter in a future post.
When you're thinking about the solution to your problem, think of the simplest thing that could still work. Then cut and have it do less. Does it still solve the problem? If it doesn't, see if you can shrink the scope of the problem. If does, see if you can shrink the solution. Keep going until you only have one basic unit of good/help that you're giving to the world.
This basic unit of good is your core value proposition, and it's also what you're testing to see if it's something people will want and find useful, because at this point, you don't really know. You might know whether you'd find it useful, but you may not know if others will.
I think it's what they call polishing a turd (or putting lipstick on pigs).
Think about software for an airport control tower. What's its main core value proposition? To land planes. If it doesn't do that, it doesn't matter that it can land big planes, small planes, on any number of different frequencies, or how many it can do at once. No one will care because it doesn't land planes.
You can much more easily position and market yourself when more focused. And when it comes to partnering, or being acquired, there's less chance for conflict. This is all so logical and, yet, there's a resistance to focusing. I think it comes from a fear of being trivial. Just remember: If you get to be #1 in your category, but your category is too small, then you can broaden your scope—and you can do so with leverage. - Evan Williams