Biking, sweet spot, and MVP
I've recently started riding a bicycle again, and I'm finding it to be a great way to commute and explore the city. It offers many advantages — it is much faster than walking, and I don’t need to wait for the bus, or spend money on Uber, or struggle to find parking.
But the biggest advantage is that biking is unlocking many new experiences for me. Last weekend, while on my way to brunch, I noticed Blackberries growing on the side-walk and picked some. I probably wouldn't have noticed them if I was driving, and even if I did, I wouldn't have bothered to stop. And I certainly wouldn't have walked 4 miles to eat brunch. Similarly, I was recently biking with a friend and we took a stop to look at the full moon over the lake. Doing this would've been harder while driving, and what are the chances that I would've walked 3 miles to the lake?
Both of these examples illustrate something very specific — that within a city, biking lies at a sweet spot between walking and driving. They are more energy-efficient than walking and hence bring more places within reachable distance. At the same time, unlike driving, they make taking unplanned stops or detours only slightly more inconvenient than walking does. Air-planes, on the other hand, take an extremely skewed spot in this reachability-versus-cost-of-detour space. While they tremendously expand our reachability, the cost of detours is extremely high.
The concept of a sweet spot is elegant. It captures a special place where you reach an acceptable solution amidst competing priorities. Identifying these spots helps in making pragmatic decisions. When launching a new product or service, people talk about MVP (most viable product). MVP is again a sweet spot between two competing priorities — perfecting the product, and launching it while the market opportunity still exists. MVP can be created quickly and is good enough to be well-received. An example is Google self-driving cars. Google could've waited until these cars could beat human drivers in Formula 1, but chose to launch once these were comparable to the average human-drivers.