Eric Ries the author of ‘The Lean Startup’ says an MVP is the “version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” In other words, the MVP is simply an instrument for running hypothesis-based experiments, which help you turn assumptions into knowledge. It therefore is rather a state of mind instead of a goal to arrive at. This is also the notion we subscribe to.
Unfortunately, the meaning of MVP has been shifted in general business parlance ever since Frank Robinson coined the term in 2001 (his original take is also a different one to ours). Startups and corporates alike use it after mottos such as: what is the smallest feature-light version we can sell quickly and get away with? Other old economy corporates, which still can’t get their heads around ‘build-to-learn-then-throw-away’ instruments, use the term synonymously for what was a ‘pilot’ back in the days: a trial apparatus, beta software, or an early full-functioning version of a product.