You will have many, many ideas for your startup product during your initial development cycle. Here's why you should resist the temptation to add them to your product backlog.
Part of the exercise in defining a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is being strict about maintaining a Minimum Viable Product Backlog (MVPB). As a founder or designer working in a new startup, it’s oh-so-easy to add yet another story to the backlog (or icebox if you want a more precise term) every time you have an idea for a new feature or business strategy. I’ve unfortunately worked on projects that had man-years worth of crud built up in their agile/scrum tool, with enough work to feed a team of developers far beyond any sane requirements for a real MVP.
One of those projects was my own.
Yes, I admit it…I can still load up Trello boards chock-full of all kinds of off-the-cuff ideas from when I was working on a startup product several years ago. Did most of those ideas help me move closer to a successful MVP? Are any of those ideas relevant today? For the most part, no. Yet I exerted so much time and energy inserting all those ideas into the system, time and energy that would have been better spent talking to and listening to potential customers of my product, or building the basic essence of what I already knew I was attempting to achieve.
Listen, I’m not saying it’s bad to have ideas. If you wake up at 3am with an Aha! rumbling about in your sleep-deprived brain, then by all means jot it down. But jot it down in your notebook/diary, not your scrum tool. If it ends up really feeling like a valid idea after you’ve had time to reflect, you will have plenty of opportunity to come up with success metrics with which validate it and a plan to execute it—before it ends up lurking near the edges of the kanban board like a swamp creature.
I am currently working on a new startup product, and this time I am intentionally keeping my backlog as short and concise as possible. Every day that I add some new code or UI for a feature, I ask myself, is this a Minimum Viable Product yet? Is this ready to test with real users? How soon can I show this to people and collect their ideas and feedback?
Unless you are an epic Jobsian-level genius (newsflash: you’re not), you are probably going to have one or two really great ideas, a handful of decent ideas, and truckload of truly terrible ideas during any given product development cycle. The sooner you allow others to provide the yardstick as to which of your ideas falls into those various camps, the better.
And for Pete’s sake, clean up that damn backlog!