Product Development Iterations

The Lean Startup model has pretty much become the synonym for launching a new product today. The idea itself is simple to articulate: build an extremely rough version or MVP, launch it, find some users, and then iterate on the product as quickly as you can.

And, in the startup world these ideas of ‘MVP’ or ‘product/market fit’ have become conventional wisdom.

But there;s another amazing process that I’ve come across recently in the book by Colin Bryar called Working Backwards. First step is writing a press release, which follows a very particular structure. Then a FAQ document is written, which addresses a bunch of internal and external issues like total addressable market, per-unit economics, P&L, key dependencies, and technical feasibility.

Then the your PR/FAQ doc is reviewed in a one-hour meeting with the relevant stakeholders present where authors are interrogated thoroughly in seeking clarity on each word mentioned in the doc.

And so the end result of a PR/FAQ meeting is often a decision to continue working on the PR/FAQ. Most PR/FAQs are rejected, and the ones that pass often generate further questions that need to be answered.

By the end of the process, people get thorough understanding of the problems that would need to be solved & understand the specific constraints and problems that would prevent a new product idea from being viable and aligning on them.

All of the product development processes including Lean Startup, Working Backwards by Amazon, Apple’s Creative Selection, and Pixar’s Braintrust — are simply ways of iterating cheaply through an idea space, with sufficient feedback, in the hope of checking enough boxes for success.

Though it’s still surprising that we’re not seeing much uptake of these alternative methodologies, beyond the orthodoxy Lean Startup method.

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