Mini Propositions

This tool will help you to flesh out different value proposition options and to make them presentable so they can be shown to potential customers very quickly.

Use this tool when:

  • you’ve created a wall of ideas and you have ~100 ideas
  • you’re ready to test different propositions


Time± 45 minutes
Difficulty4 / 5
People3 - 5
Authorerik van der pluijm
License CC BY SA 4.0

What is it and when should I use it?

This tool will help you to flesh out the clusters of ideas you have come up with previously and to make them presentable so they can be shown to potential customers very quickly. This means you'll be able to start gathering data on what people think about your ideas almost immediately. That means you'll be using early validation to help you guide your selection process.

It allows you to get a clear picture of what the ideas you created could become, while still postponing deciding on one single idea.

The point is to try to explore the most interesting aspects of the ideas you came up with in isolation, by making simple (but compelling) propositions that focus on those interesting aspects and leave out everything else.

The Mini Proposition canvas was adapted from the Ad Lib Value Proposition by Alex Osterwalder et al. in Value Proposition Design and the value proposition statement introduced by Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm.


Let's say you are working on an idea that will help people to travel more efficiently. You have done the Wall of Ideas exercise and have come up with a ton of ideas, clustered into a number of clusters.

One cluster focuses on ideas around scheduling and journey planning. In the cluster there are ideas that are broad and work for all travelers, but you have also come up with a few ideas that are targeted specifically at busy executives.

A second cluster focuses on ideas around a trend you have observed, namely social travel and ride sharing.

For cluster one, you decide to take the focus on the executives to the extreme, and you come up with a virtual assistant that will track and predict your movements 24/7, and keep you on schedule.

For cluster two, you decide to focus on the social aspect of traveling and you come up with a mini proposition of an app that will always allow you to find like-minded travellers nearby.

Note that in both cases, this proposition is not aimed to be a valid business model. That is not what you are testing at this moment. What you are trying to do is to see which of the potentially interesting ingredients you have come up with has the most potential, and how customers respond to it. By doing this in isolation you make it much easier to focus the conversation.

Later, you'll face the task of balancing all of the features you have come up with into one coherent, overarching value proposition. That is very difficult. It will help you a lot to focus first on small aspects and learn how people respond to them. Perhaps some resonate strongly, even if they require adjustment. Perhaps others that you felt confident about before do not strike a chord with customers at all. It's better to find that out right away

Example For a cyber-security proposition, we came up with a certificate that small business owners could get when their security was above a certain level. From initial data it seemed that this would be a sure bet, and we expected entrepreneurs would be interested in this. When we made the mini proposition, and tested with actual customers, we found out that they didn't like the idea at all. They strongly preferred another mini proposition that we decided to include only as a wildcard.

Tool Overview

  1. Product or service What is this mini proposition about? Name it!

  2. Customer type What defines the customers you want to target with this mini proposition?

  3. Problem What problem are you solving for these customers?

  4. Key part of problem What is the most important aspect of the problem you are solving?

  5. Key benefit of solution What is an additional key benefit of your solution for your customers?

  6. Solution Describe the solution

  7. Type of transaction How and what do your customers pay?


1 Before you start

Make sure you have done a ‘Wall of Ideas’ [] exercise where you have come up with a whole list of ideas. Cluster your ideas in ~5 clusters.

Once you have created ~5 main clusters of ideas, it’s time to create ‘mini propositions’ that you can use to test with your customers or users.

2 Label your clusters

Go over the clusters on your wall of ideas. Can you already picture what the idea in the cluster looks like to a customer? Try to give each cluster a descriptive name. Write it on a big post it, and put it on a fresh piece of wall (keep some space around it).

Answer the following 8 questions for each cluster and put your answers in the Mini Proposition Canvas.

  1. The (placeholder) name of your product or service
  2. What is the customer segment?
  3. What exactly is the problem you solve for your customers?
  4. What is the most important pain your customers have that you take away?
  5. What is the most important bonus your customers get from using your product/service? This is your most important 'gain'.
  6. How do you solve it? What is the product or service description?
  7. What is the unique aspect of this idea?
  8. How do they purchase it? Do they pay once? Or a subscription? How will you make money?

Example Mini Proposition: "Our journey assistant helps busy executives who need to travel to multiple meetings every day reduce lost time and stress and stay on schedule effortlessly through a mobile journey assistant for a monthly fee of 5€"

3 Be as varied as possible

The point of this exercise is to get possible mini-propositions that could be a solution to the problem you want to solve that are as different as possible. Each cluster should become as different as possible from all the other clusters, in terms of customer segments, specific take on the problem, how it’s solved, how they pay, etc.

The idea is, that you can test how your customers respond to these different options in isolation, so that you get a better idea of the direction you want to go next.

Tip! Remember that the goal is to figure out what possible solutions to the problem resonate with your customers, not to see if one specific solution is the right one!

That also means that you’re perhaps coming up with some mini-propositions that are not completely in line with the design criteria you put up earlier. That’s ok. Don’t worry, you won’t ever force yourself down a path that clashes with the ‘why’ you have formulated earlier.

But it is good to see what happens if you explore the boundaries a little. Who knows, you may learn something from your customer feedback that you can transform into something that does fit exactly with your design criteria.

4 Flesh out the Mini Propositions

Go over each proposition and try to find:

  •  Examples of similar products or services (How are they similar? How are they different?)
  •  An example that describes how it is used by a customer. How does it work?

5 Next Steps

Do a round of voting with the team on what you think the most promising of these mini propositions is. Pick the top 3 to validate with customers and see how they respond.

Your mini-propositions are done when:

  •  Each mini proposition has a name
  •  Each mini-proposition has a 3-5 line description
  •  Each mini-proposition has an example

Now, use the Experiment Canvas to setup an experiment where your potential customers can give input on this proposition.

Combining the answers from multiple mini propositions will give you a much better idea about what customers like the most and what type of solution they prefer.

If you'd like to learn more about this tool and how to use it in practice in a real innovation journey, check out the course Find your next Startup Idea