The Minimum Lovable Product 

Because “viable” isn’t human. 

Matt Johnson
May 6, 2014 · 2 min read

First, I want to personally thank Eric Ries. He’s done the impossible; single-handedly changing the vernacular for startups and the enterprise. Without him, we wouldn’t have the lean startup movement (and all of the “Lean” derivatives). He brought MVP (minimum viable product) to the masses and for that, we should all be very thankful.

An aside, I wonder how much money this movement has either saved or created?

As a partner at an innovation consultancy / startup incubator, the lean startup methodology was a way to (finally) describe what we did. It helped justify the idea of building quickly, with a purpose, for the sake of learning. It was freeing.

I have to admit though, after reading the book, fully drinking the koolaid, and preaching the MVP philosphy to anyone I could — something bothered me. One word, in fact.


Being one part designer/song-writer, and the other part economist, I constantly fight with myself (real right-brain, left-brain battles). Function or fashion, less or more, immersive or simple? At the end of the day, I could always rationalize myself into believing viable was ok. Good enough was — well— good enough, right?

After spending more time with this philosophy, and seeing the wins and (fast) failures it created, I have a suggested edit.

Let’s replace viable with lovable.

If we simply ask ourselves what the minimum we can do to ensure our customers love our product/service/business, instead of making them viable (good enough), I truly believe we’d change the game.

Personally, I’d do less, better. I’d invest time/talent/money in what consumers would love, not just need. Let’s not forget something very important…

Users/customers/etc. are humans, and humans don’t feel “viable.”

Next time you’re in a design/development/product-planning/sprint-planning session, ask the question — is this helping us deliver a viable experience, or a lovable one?

Let me know if it changes your conversations.


Stories from the startup journey around the world.

    Matt Johnson

    Written by

    I solve big problems, make digital things, and write songs. I Iove my dogs, and I play outside. Partner at GoKart Labs.



    Stories from the startup journey around the world.