eric kim street photography hanoi-0002040

How to Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

Hanoi, 2016 #cindyproject

One of the biggest inspirations I have gotten from Silicon Valley is this concept of an “MVP” (minimum viable product).

What is an “MVP”?

In normal words, an MVP is the smallest product, program, or idea that you can execute.

An MVP is not perfect. It is probably around 60-80% “good enough”.

The concept is that once you have a “working prototype” — you just execute it and put into action. Then you get feedback, make tweaks, adjustments, and continue to “iterate” and make the product better.

We can apply this idea of tinkering with a “minimum viable product” in many different ways:

For example, if you want to work on a photography project, what is the smallest little step forward you can take in your project? What are the 3 photos you can take (today) which will contribute towards this project? Don’t think of your 10-year plan; think of what you can do today.

Or in business, let’s say you want to become a professional photographer. You might want to shoot weddings or commercial work. What is the smallest possible gig you can do this weekend, to take a step forward to your dream?

If you’re a blogger, what is the “minimum viable product” you can make as a blog post? Can you write something with an idea that is 80% “good enough” and publish it?

“Perfect” doesn’t exist

Nothing is ever perfect. Everything is always in a state of “becoming.”

One of the biggest inspirations I get from Zen is the pursuit of perfection. But realizing that “perfection” doesn’t exist. Every step we take forward, we are trying to slowly take away our faults, and chip away at our imperfections.

Take for example the iPhone. When it was first released, it was missing a lot of functions like copy-and-pasting, 3G internet speeds, and multi-tasking. Yet Apple released it anyways. And each generation of the iPhone from the “2G” to the “7” has been a slow incremental progression towards “perfection.”

Overcome your plateaus

Of course there is a lot of talk how Apple isn’t innovating anymore — but that isn’t the point. The idea is that Steve Jobs wanted to seek “perfection” through Apple products, but eventually most of us will hit a wall, where we will plateau. But we still need to push forward, to trying to improve as much as we can.

Any bodybuilder knows the idea of a plateau. There is a certain point when a bodybuilder can no longer lift a heavier weight. But regardless, you need to still keep pushing forward, and not accepting the status quo.

Start small, think big

A giant redwood once started from a little seed.

Facebook was started in a dorm room.

Apple start off in a garage.

Every great thing has a humble beginning. Think big, but start small.

Tips to build your MVP

Here are some practical tips to get you started in terms of building your “MVP” (minimum viable product):

1. Aim for 80% “good enough”:

Nobody knows what perfect looks like. But we generally know when we do something “good enough”. When you’re starting off, never seek perfection— or else you will become blocked. You will fall victim to “paralysis by analysis” — and never take risks, and move forward.

Seek to create things that are “80% good enough”, according to your own standards, and just publish it, share it, create it, or “ship” it.

2. Scratch your own itch:

Nobody knows what anyone else wants. But you know what you want. You know your own desires, frustrations, and hopes. Design for yourself. Create for yourself.

When I started off in street photography, there were no resources on the web in terms of how to shoot street photography. So I started my blog as an self-educational exercise. I wrote for myself, and I eventually found other people who were seeking what I was once seeking.

3. Don’t spend money:

The biggest deterrent from us from achieving our dreams is that we think we need a lot of money. Often, money is a curse. Money makes us lazy, and prevents us from innovating.

Air BNB started off as two guys who needed extra cash, and decided to rent their bedroom (and air mattress) to make an “air mattress” bed and breakfast (bnb).

If you want to start your own business, how could you get started without any startup capital? If you want to be a professional photographer, how can you start doing your first gig with just the camera and lens you already own? If you want to start a blog, what free blogging platform can you just start with?

Conclusion: Keep it simple

Keep it really simple, get started, and don’t be afraid to fail. Keep “failing forward”, and seek to please yourself, before pleasing others. Keep tweaking, iterating, and adjusting your course.

Know there is no final destination. Everything is a state of becoming.


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