Reducing Product Risk and Removing the MVP Mindset: The Entertainment Value Curve

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Sep 29, 2023

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Reducing Product Risk and Removing the MVP Mindset: The Entertainment Value Curve

In today's fast-paced and ever-evolving world, it is crucial for businesses to de-risk their projects and understand the changing dynamics of consumer preferences. One approach to achieving this is by reducing product risk and removing the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) mindset. However, it is essential to recognize that the de-risking process varies depending on the type of customer the product is being built for.

When it comes to initial releases, it is important to understand that they will never have all the features and functionalities that the team desires. But this should not be seen as a problem. By adopting an iterative approach and continuously improving the product based on user feedback, it is possible to deliver value to users as it becomes available. However, it is important to note that users may not always be reliable narrators of their own behaviors and preferences. While it is crucial to regularly engage with them to understand their problems, it is equally important for product thinkers to infer solutions themselves. As Henry Ford famously said, "If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse."

Cody's design quality framework introduces the idea that the level of investment before a product reaches the customer is directly linked to the level of confidence in understanding both the problem and the viability of the solution. This means that when building features, it is possible to take a more lightweight approach, especially when building on top of an existing product. MVPs and Minimum Viable Features (MVF) serve the purpose of proving that ideas can solve a problem. Once this is established, it usually requires a significant investment to fully realize the potential of the product or feature idea.

Releasing products regularly not only allows for de-risking the vision from a technical standpoint but also provides insights into how the product scales or breaks incrementally. This iterative approach allows for a more controlled and gradual evolution of the product, rather than risking a complete failure or breakdown all at once.

Now, let's shift our focus to the Entertainment Value Curve and understand why certain mobile video apps succeed while others fail. It is evident that successful mobile video apps are not just viewing experiences; they are social experiences. Take the example of TikTok, which is currently on fire, and Quibi, which failed to gain traction.

Meg Whitman, the former CEO of Quibi, described it as one of the most disruptive and timely ideas she had come across in her career. The concept of short-form video was exploding, but Quibi aimed to differentiate itself by offering a professional approach to content creation. However, it failed to recognize that the success of mobile video apps is not solely based on production value but also on social value.

The Entertainment Value Curve suggests that entertainment value on mobile is a combination of production value and social value. The higher the personal connection a viewer has with the content (social value) and the quality of the content relative to the genre's highest quality (production value), the higher the entertainment value. It is important to note that people enjoy content differently based on who is creating and sharing it.

Snapchat, for example, emphasizes social value by providing tools for anyone to create fun content (low production value) but fosters a high level of personal connection between the viewer and the content. Instagram, on the other hand, has strategically lowered the production bar, making lower production value content readily accessible at the top of the feed. This has increased the entertainment value of the platform and encouraged more frequent posting and consumption of stories.

TikTok takes the concept a step further by emphasizing topical content first and socially connected content second. It breaks down the wall between the audience and the creator, making it easy for anyone to create and share content. This design approach aligns with the idea that snackable media is social media, as looping videos allow for easy sharing and engagement.

Netflix, at the other end of the spectrum, focuses on high production value content, primarily created by elite Hollywood content creators. While it may have a smaller library compared to YouTube, it leverages social value through its recommendation algorithm, which connects viewers with content they are likely to engage with.

Understanding the importance of social value and production value, businesses can measure their success by looking at the creation participation rate. This rate indicates the percentage of users who create content regularly. Platforms like Instagram have focused on increasing creation participation by lowering the production bar, resulting in more people posting and consuming content.

So, how can businesses leverage these insights and take actionable steps to improve their product development and market fit? Here are three pieces of advice:

  • 1. Emphasize social value: Recognize the importance of personal connection and social interaction in creating an engaging product. Provide tools and features that enable users to create and share content easily, fostering a sense of community and connection.
  • 2. Find the right balance between production value and social value: It is not just about having high production value or low production value content. Strive for a balance that aligns with your target audience's preferences and expectations.
  • 3. Iterate and improve based on user feedback: Regularly engage with users and listen to their problems, but remember that you must infer solutions yourself. Continuously iterate and improve the product based on user feedback, ensuring that you are delivering value as it becomes available.

In conclusion, reducing product risk and removing the MVP mindset requires a deep understanding of the target audience and their preferences. By recognizing the importance of social value and production value and finding the right balance between the two, businesses can create products that deliver a high level of entertainment value. Incorporating user feedback and iterating on the product will allow for continuous improvement and de-risking. So, let go of the MVP mindset and focus on building products that truly solve problems and provide value to users.

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