So! You have arrived at this post for the definitive MVP definition. The definition to rule them all. An answer to your pent up MVP angst. The “I TOLD YOU SO!” fodder for your Slack #product-articles cannon.

I am here to disappoint you. Here’s the deal. You need to have a conversation with your team. This is one of those things where five people can read the same article and walk away with very different definitions. Experience is everything. After thousands of posts, talks, and books, we aren’t getting closer. We may be getting further away.

So you need a new tactic. A conversation.

Try this:

Introduction: 5 minutes

  1. “Team, we’re going to spend ninety minutes coming up with a working definition of an MVP. It doesn’t need to be perfect. As we learn more about what works here, we can adapt it accordingly. Before we start, does anyone want to continue the circular debates and passive aggressive blog-post-with-infographic Slack mic-drops?”
  2. Hopefully, no one raises their hand.

Individual brainstorming: 5 minutes

  1. 3 minutes of silent brainstorming.

Pair discussion and sharing: 25 minutes

  1. 5 minutes of boisterous conversation.
  2. “OK. Great. Can each pair talk us through their discussion? While you do, I’ll do some affinitizing here on the whiteboard.”
  3. 15 minutes of sharing. Clusters form on the whiteboard.
  4. “Thanks. I’d like everyone to spend three minutes reviewing what is here on the board. We have some areas of convergence, and some areas of divergence.”
  5. 3 minutes of perusing the board.
  6. “Now that you can see this is all in one place, does anyone think we are missing something? It is entirely possible that we overlooked something.”
  7. If someone mentions something, note it.

Recap: 5 minutes

Areas of agreement and healthy tension: 15 minutes

  1. Team offers some ideas. Fill in blanks.
  2. “For the health tension stuff, let’s do something similar. Fill in the blanks. Here at Acme, when we use MVPs, we know there will be a healthy tension between [one aspect] and [another aspect]. To make sure to keep this tension healthy and valuable, we agree to [things you’ll do to keep tension focused on better outcomes and happiness]”.
  3. Team offers some ideas. Fill in blanks.

Showstoppers: 5 minutes

  1. Hopefully, this is a non-issue. If not, you’ll need to make progress towards some sort of resolution. Often, these are trust issues. There’s general agreement on the “theory”, but people do not trust that the details will be resolved. If blocked, propose you move forward and experiment with the exercise.

Concrete Actions: 15 minutes

  1. “We have our Why. What are some concrete actions we can take while working on [some effort] to make sure we are in alignment with these ideas? Form groups based on who is working on what, and have this discussion for around ten minutes. Note your actions. Tip…none of these actions are set in stone. They are experiments meant to achieve our Why.”
  2. Team collaborates for ten minutes, and lists action items.
  3. “We are running short on time, so we don’t have time to fully share our action items, but does anyone have some examples?”
  4. Brief sharing.


Multiple hat-wearer. Prod dev nut. I love wrangling complex problems and answering the why with qual/quant data. @johncutlefish on Twitter.