Mountain biking and MVPs

So it seems spending time exercising gives me time to think about what I’m going to write about. I spent some time this week reading a few varying views on Minimum Viable Products. One of my own personal favourite descriptions of this term has been Josh Longs Smallest Viable Product from his book Execute. But it still gets tricky to decide what is minimum vs loveable vs smallest – and that’s where my afternoon ride gave me some personal clarity on this topic.

It’s nearly one year to the date that I won my first mountain bike race – now you may be asking what has this got to do with MVPs, MLPs or SVPs for that matter? Let me explain my view.

Last year (2014) I had been doing a ‘reasonable’ amount of training again after spending nearly 4 years off my mountain bike after an injury. By nature, I am competitive, and so using Strava enabled me to quickly see where my fitness levels were when compared to other riders in my city and area.

So when I saw this race – close to my home town – I knew that my Strava logs over the same distance in training were comparative to the winning times of the previous years race – bar a few minutes or so. At this time I considered entering – but still thought that maybe I was not quite ready yet to race – so put it off. Finally on the day before the race I thought, Ah – why not – so I entered (late entry fee and all). I drove up early in the morning to take part in the race – with a strategy of starting from the back (literally) to not get caught up in any early racing and rather ride the race at my own pace and just see what happened. To cut a long story short, it did not take me long to pass most of the riders in the race – with most bombing on the first big climb and I progressively caught the remaining few riders, and finally the race leader with about 3km to go before the finish where I out sprinted him to win the race.

So as I was riding today and remembering that race it made me think of this term MVP, and what does it mean to me – and that’s where my race comes into it. Eventually, I had to make a decision to go ‘race’ – I could not continue just training and using my Strava times to work out if I could have won that race or not had I entered. I had to actually put myself out there and take a chance and see what happened in the ‘real’ world. I think this is much the same for MVPs – there comes a time where trying to push the design just that little but further or including that latest feature you’ve thought of stops you from getting your product out there and seeing how it compares. You are never going to know just how fit or strong you are – or in the product world how good your product is or if it answers an actual user need unless you ‘put it’ out there – or as our industry likes to say – ship it.