If you’ve been in the startup world for a while, you’ll be familiar with the phrase ‘minimum viable product’. Logically, if there’s a minimum then much must be a maximum right?

For me, a maximum viable product is the most of a product the market is willing to accept. Therefore it stands to reason you could create more than a maximum viable product. You could develop features that the market doesn’t require, need, or desire, and as a result, create a feature for your core product that had no impact on its perceived value.

The most likely time you’ll exceed the maximum viable product is when you realise that you are the market leader. It is at this time that panic sets in from a desperate desire to defend your market leader position. It is also at this time that you’re likely to create a feature that has not been demanded. If you’ve followed this path, you’ve invested in a feature that has added no value.

Does your car need 10 kW of more power? Does your laptop require 10 gigabytes more hard drive storage?

It’s not a negative to have either of those things, but neither is it a necessity or something that would change your purchase behaviour.

Instead, the trick to Innovation is not to continue to add features to a product or service beyond that of the maximum viable product. It’s to pivot and find a maximum of a new position to strive for, a new standard set within the market for the competition to follow.

The pivot and expansion is a lesson learnt from companies like Facebook and Google – even Microsoft has been able to recently reinvent itself.

Amazon (another great example), rather than adding more features to the process of buying books has added new products like the increasingly profitable area of cloud computing. Amazon reached maximum viable product in online book buying and so expand their business to new services, rather than adding features that are not yet required when purchasing books online.

A maximum viable product is not the most that we could achieve with our product; it is the most that the consumer sees value in. There will always be a need and a desire to improve on the maximum viable product, to push beyond the limits, to see what can be achieved, to do what no one else is done before, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to a more profitable product or business.

In reality, very few of us will ever achieve a maximum viable product. We will remain way back in the realms of ‘minimum viable product’. For us, the goal is not ‘maximum’ but ‘lovable’, the ‘minimum lovable product’. This is the minimum we need to achieve for customers to start to love, rave, refer and recommend our product.

Of course, as a marketer, I also appreciate the value of exceeding the maximum viable product. This pursuit is a fantastic way to attract publicity, for example, the Louis Vuitton skateboard at a bit over USD$8000 or the Tiffany tennis balls at USD$1500. Both products are excessively beyond the maximum viable product, but both fantastic pieces of PR and brand positioning for both Louis Vuitton and Tiffany as rich almost unobtainable luxury brands.

There is a place for the product that exceeds the maximum viable solution; it’s just not at the heart of most sustainable business models.

So do you think there should be the term ‘Maximum viable product’?

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