You’ve definitely heard of the term MVP at almost every first draft presentation of new ideas or new versions of existing products. At its abbreviation level it stands for “Minimum Viable Product” which broadly translates to early iteration of a product that meets basic requirements of customers.

If you step back and ask “What is the goal?” for an MVP it should immediately bring to mind two things:

  1. What is the minimum knowledge I need to have, so that
  2. Customers most basic needs can be tested successfully

Key words here are “knowledge” and “testing”.

Coming to the point why MVP is a bad choice to do the above; First, “minimum” as a word is ambiguous – who defines minimum? and does the team as a whole agree to this minimum? If something is not universal then it automatically causes faulty interpretation. Second, most MVP development efforts are far more robust than they need to be – it’s difficult to hold back a need for perfection when you know this first iteration is going to be tested on a small segment of customers or stakeholders.

RAT stands for Riskiest Assumption Test and universally means TESTING THE ONE MOST RISKIEST ASSUMPTION. It is explicit!

We start with the one critical assumption. Here’s an example to help:

“Have we found a problem worth solving?”

Express the solution you are offering as your product as a problem statement for the customer. Now work backwards. What has to be true for the opportunity to exist?

Now take these assumptions and delve into what are the main assumptions behind each of those. Keep doing this exercise until you’re left with a distilled list of root assumptions.

From this exercise you’ll be able to identify where your critical knowledge gaps are and what needs to be in the Riskiest Assumption Test.

One of the other benefits apart from stark clarity on knowledge gaps is that RAT will dissuade you from focusing effort on creating a rudimentary product.

As Tom Chi, co-founder of Google X, puts it: “Maximize learning while minimizing time to try things.”

Close to 50% of start-ups and new innovations fail because they didn’t bother to test if the market has a need for the product in the first place. RAT can help answer these critical questions and fast. RATs are also a great way to engage the whole development team instead of having a myopic view of what the MVP or product is presented by a single person.

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