Play and Prepare – How to Use Team-Building Games to Develop MVP

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MVP and Team-Building – a new perspective for an old relationship

The traditional method of product development, also called “stealth mode”, rarely works anymore because it is not a flexible approach. Companies used to make detailed business plans spanning a considerable time horizon, using a wide range of resources.

However, team leaders find themselves planning every detail of a long journey in the current fast-changing business environment before it has even started. No matter how thoughtful your product planning is, there will be unexpected moments throughout the journey that will “kill” your initial concept.

In many recent surveys, managers stated that they feel the need to validate their ideas using fewer resources in a shorter period. Have you adopted this approach in your practice as well?

This is how the MVP approach was born – a core principle of the Lean Startup methodology. It stands for validating business ideas cheaply before making any substantial investment. Today companies learn from something that resembles their product, not from the product itself.

As a team leader or manager, you are probably familiar with the pain of the nature of the MVP and its various forms.

In this article, we will unfold a new perspective through which to look at the minimal viable product. We will keep top of mind its basic definition of “a quick and dirty” product release, but get ready to discover the most powerful part of the concept.

Let’s change your perspective on what an MVP is. It could be an organising principle that empowers your team to perform better in the long run.

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Team-building is your way to the MVP

In their effort to keep employees motivated, satisfied and productive, business leaders have developed a variety of programs over the years.

In the past, a lot of companies have used the popular methods:

Today, our industrial environment is unpredictable, and the new generations of workers are so different that the well-known tools and philosophies are no longer enough to make your team a peak-performer over time.

In recent years, many organisations have been focused on the concepts of team-building activities as a way to achieve a more efficient MVP development process. Managers find those exercises as truly essential for their team, wishing to:

However, today you can acknowledge team-building activities also as a trigger to develop minimal viable products.

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Experiment on the way towards excellence

The term MVP was coined by Frank Robinson but was made popular by two influential names in product design Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur and academic, and Eric Ries, the pioneer of the Lean Startup movement. The MVP method of product development and idea validation is at the core of the so popular and effective Lean Startup approach. So, as Eric Ries of Lean Startup fame says, it is an “experiment on the way to excellence.”

As a team leader, we encourage you to apply MVP to everything you do with your team’s in-house projects and team developing activities. You may need some small tweaks depending on the circumstances and the scenario you are using this approach.

The key is to recreate the synergy and collaboration internally – between the team members and in your manager-employee relationships. If you test your ideas with your teammates and get their feedback as you work, you ensure that your project stays on track and adds value for the company. As we said earlier, MVP is also an organisational principle that would help your team perform better and feel close than ever.

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The ‘isolation game’ vs ‘the shared success’

People often perceive “genius” minds as an image of brilliant inventor working in isolation by themselves on a disruptive discovery. But according to Cambridge physicist Athene Donald:

“No individual can sit down at a bench and nail down the existence of the Higgs boson.”

She explains that every invention comes from a group of experts working together, sharing ideas, and critiquing each other’s strategies.

The same perception of the “isolation game” exists in the workplace. Team members often start a new project, and under the influence of their desire to be a team champion, they try to work alone. Some can even ignore valuable feedback and become aggressive.

With such an attitude, your team members will hardly ever come up with an outstanding idea or, let alone manage to do it in the set timeframe of the project.

Set this one as a goal – to show your team that together means “better, faster, stronger”. A Gallup survey stated that feelings of employee isolation reduce productivity up to 21%. That is why so many job descriptions seek candidates with developed team-player characteristics and the ability to work in diverse teams.

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Empower your team to perform better than the sum of its parts

To successfully achieve a particular goal, leaders need their team members to work together. It takes consistency, persistence, and a lot of work to build a culture where people communicate and cooperate freely and are not afraid to ask each other for help. This is the core idea of the MVP—collaboration is built right into it. Therefore, you as a leader can MVP almost everything, especially your internal team bonds. By frequently organising team-building activities that:

  • Foster communication & enhance collaboration.
  • Build trust and, therefore, cooperation.
  • Make team members connect with and rely on each other.

You increase your chances to create one sustainable team that shares mutual trust and purpose. Once you put team-developing activities in the heart of your team’s culture, you can boost MVP creation.

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Which comes first – the MVP or the dream team?

By having the MVP first, you will set a stable ground for your team. People are driven by the willingness to learn and to do things quickly and frictionlessly. Get them involved in the MVP creation process, accept their unique ideas and problem-solving methods, and you will increase their motivation to excel and improve.

The MVP is a way to test and validate your idea by launching on the market and receiving feedback from your customers. Then, you will have the chance to go back to your ideation, pivot as needed, and improve your product/service based on the feedback.

MVP also helps in getting a sense of the market need. Many companies make the common mistake of creating a product and then finding some customer segments that will demand it. Look for market-product fit instead of product-market fit.

You should analyse the needs and wants of the target segment before putting in the resources in developing a product. In other words, your product should resemble the needs of your customers and the mix of your team members’ strong sides.

However, during the whole MVP creation process, you and your team learn by doing. When you deliver the minimal product, you receive helpful pivoting feedback from your customers. Your team gains the chance to identify their mistakes, their weaknesses and gaps, and how to improve for their next MVP creation. The thinking is that the sooner you can launch a product, the sooner you can get market validation and valuable learning for your team.

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Team-building – the easy design thinking adoption for your MVP development

Design Sprint is a modern approach, like the Lean Startup method, where your team has one week to find a problem, create a solution, and launch the idea by delivering a prototype to customers. A team-building session is very similar to this modern method of developing and testing ideas if you think about it.

So, you can find another benefit in organising that kind of activity – getting your team together outside of your workplace, giving them a single task – to develop an idea using the Design Sprint Method. When we say that you launch the concept through an activity prototype, we say that this is your MVP.

Having a common goal and working as a group in an informal environment, your team will naturally improve its relationship, just as we form our friendships.

People need to deliver an idea – they brainstorm, discuss, criticise, and at the end, conclude with an agreement. They will get to know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferred ways of work by getting into the operational part together. Team-building exercise is not only a way to put the popular “learn by doing” approach into practice but also a way to create a real MVP while enhancing the overall “health” of your team.

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We encourage you to let them choose the type of activity they will engage in! This will stimulate their creativity and innovation. Moreover, by giving them a certain level of autonomy in the team development process, you are tapping on a few important elements:

  • Giving autonomy means creating a sense of shared responsibilities.
  • This feeling means people depend on you, and they trust you. So, you have to be loyal to your team and dedicate yourself to it.
  • The previous 2 points trigger your teammates’ ability to monitor themselves, assess and recognise performance gaps.

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The last step towards the perfect MVP is your team-building approach

To successfully brainstorm ideas, find solutions, and in the end, create an MVP, there is 1 thing that will enhance this process – communication.

However, many times, team members feel a lot of pressure and stress in the workplace. It can be either from the pushy deadlines or the numerous challenging projects.

Whatever the reason is, a team can feel more stressed in the workplace than in another environment. It does not take much to let your imagination think of several exciting activities to stimulate communication outside of work.

Give your team members a chance to leave their jobs aside and eliminate the stress by providing them with an informal team-building session structured all-around, improving communication. Your goal must be to make your team members feel comfortable around each other.

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When socialising with coworkers, you are likely to create shared references through your conversation while learning the best ways to communicate. These insights will serve you the next time you need to convey information to any team member, even if that ‘next time’ is during an important meeting.

One more significant benefit that team-building brings to the table is the encouragement of innovation and creativity. Your MVP sprints are all about delivering the simplest possible form of any merchandise or service you aim to bring to market; thus, to achieve simplicity with minimum resources, teams need to be creative. You need to exploit your limited inventory in an unusual and challenging way to create the MVP. This is an opportunity for you to gain value from your team-building sessions and use it to fuel the innovative mindsets of activity your team members.

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5 ways team-building empowers MVP development

  1. MVP enhances your team productivity.
  2. Team-building improves your MVP.
  3. MVP process fuels your team’s brainpower.
  4. Team-building teaches you how to leverage ‘shared experience’ in the development process.
  5. MVP supports the corporate culture.

by Vasilena Vasileva

A firm believer in team culture, creative team-building games & that inspiration comes within.



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