One of my favorite parts of The 4-Hour Workweek is Tim Ferriss’s discussion of microtesting new products — marketing something cheaply and scientifically online to see if you get interested buyers before you go produce it. It’s very consistent with ideas I’ve long been attracted to, in particular: predicting the future is impossible, and it’s better to get user feedback on products as early and often as possible. And it’s an especially appealing approach for startups and small businesses that can’t afford to spend a lot on developing products that go bust.

A recent article in Inc. magazine – “The Bootstrapper’s Guide to Launching New Products” – offers some good examples of “microtesting” or “minimum viable product.” “What sets this approach apart from practices like using focus groups,” the article points out, “is that companies base product development decisions not just on what customers say they want but on how they vote with their wallets.”