Minimal Viable Project

Strategy 3: Focus on the Minimal Viable Project

This is a post from the series: Creative Strategies: Making Ideas Happen.

Don’t let a great idea be at risk with a big rollout. Identify the Minimal Viable Project needed to communicate the concept and lay the foundation for the next version. 

“It’s not the notes you play. It’s the notes you don’t play.” – Miles Davis

I was advising some students while in Copenhagen who were tasked with animating a public square on the outskirts of the city. Their goal was to devise an intervention that would provoke conversation and engagement at night between strangers in the square.

Usually when I’m brought in to advise students there’s a willingness among them to open up the idea and road test some of its components, finding out what will work and what needs more attention and/or reality thrown at it. That wasn’t the case with this group.

It was clear they had already gone all-in on a concept involving a public bench that would curl up around two people when they sat on it. The experience of being encapsulated by the arms of a moving bench with a stranger was supposed to motivate the individuals to have a conversation and learn about one another, instead of, say, panicking and yelling as they try to free themselves from being trapped by a sentient bench.

Putting aside the questionable act of trapping unsuspecting strangers in a bench, their concept was going to be incredibly complex, costly, and tough to navigate through the city’s permissions process. But they weren’t going to budge on their idea. 

“This, or nothing,” was the shared stance. 

Of their two options:

A) This 

B) Nothing 

It was fairly obvious that B was where the project was about to go. 

When available options to anything is A or B, there’s usually an Option C to be found in the mix. In this case, the only chance the students had to be able to do anything in the square was Option C: breaking the desire of the project into pieces and identifying the Minimal Viable Project – the smallest executable piece of the project that would still contain the intent of the concept. 

Minimal Viable Project 

Minimal Viable Project is of course a modified version of the Minimal Viable Product approach taken by software development and startup companies. Stripping away all the features and bells and whistles beyond the core functional product in order to get a product to the marketplace quickly. The same rules apply to creative projects.

Whatever the desired end result is, be sure that you have a stripped-down, Minimal Viable Product in place to launch the intent of your project. Everything can move to a version 2.0 after its launch, but don’t risk the launch by betting it all on beginning with version 10 of what you want to do.

Next in the series: Strategy 4: Find New Opportunities by Reframing Your Offering

This Could: Creating Opportunity from Limited Resources

To learn a lot more about the power of conditional thinking, my latest book This Could: How Two Words Can Create Opportunity in an Era of Limited Resources will be of interest.

Header Image: Circle by Creative Stall from the Noun Project

2020-03-18