Viable is important

Identifying the viable for a product can mean life or death

Published on 
2 min, 318 words

Categories: life

"Minimum Viable Product", or MVP, is a phrase that has become common place. It gained fame through the Lean Startup book and the work of Eric Ries.

It is very easy to focus on the minimum part of the definition. What is the least we can do? It is very easy to forget the viable part - this potentially raises the bar to a higher level. What makes a product viable? What does it need to do? What features must it have to enable the user/consumer to achieve what they want to do?

Over the past week the world, well the UK at least, has been gripped by the hunt for the Titan submersible that went missing near the wreck of the Titanic. Unfortunately we learnt yesterday that there was a "catastrophic implosion" and all those aboard have died.

There seems to be a lot of evidence now that the operators of the submersible were focused on innovation and navigating a different path to the more traditional companies. They were keen to innovate and experiment. Unfortunately this approach looks like it cost the lives of five people.

There is a time and a place for experimentation; there is a time and a place for processes and certification. I would suggest that in this case they focussed on the "minimum" whereas a key "viable" feature was the ability to consistently operate safely at a certain depth and to have processes and features in place to either prevent or recover from unforeseen circumstances. The harsher the environment and the more life critical the situation then the more important this is.

When we are developing an application for a mobile, a web application or maybe some types of products the impact of getting the viable part wrong is that the product does not sell or the consumer doesn't engage with the product. Here getting the viable wrong had tragic consequences.