Minimum Viable Products in Schools

This article, about the origin of Unsplash (click that link and you may never return to this post!)  and the importance of Minimum Viable Products served two purposes last week.

On Friday morning, I shared it with a group of students who have been hanging around my office and talking with me about starting their own business.  They’re getting stuck because they can think of all the reasons why their ideas won’t work, or all the ways in which their ideas could possibly be worth a billion dollars, but they are having a lot of trouble actually starting.

On Friday afternoon, I used it to frame a discussion with a committee tasked with developing our school’s academic partnerships and forging new avenues for student engagement.

Here’s a key quote from the article, which goes on to document MVPs associated with eBay, Apple, and Kickstarter.

The first version of a product is often referred to as a Minimum Viable Product, or in other words, a product that has just the core features that make the product work. It can be a website or an app, but whatever you do, keep it simple.

When I asked my work group why MVPs might be useful in schools, they said:

  • An MVP will allow us to see if students are actually interested in what we are building.
  • An MVP will save us from investing a ton of time — our most precious resource — up front.
  • An MVP will force us to simplify where we sometimes have a tendency to complicate.  We have to figure out what’s most important to the project and focus relentlessly on presenting that part.
  • An MVP will help us to learn.

The verdict from the student group is less tangible.  They just emailed me and said: “Cool article.”

Sounds like we’re launched.


On the Benefits of Exquisite Calendaring

My son was looking over my shoulder yesterday and he commented on the fact that my calendar was ridiculously full.  He told me that he could never live like that — with almost every block of time scheduled.

But then I explained to him that I’m not any busier than anybody else — what I am more than anybody else is careful about my calendar.  I like to be as deliberate as I can be about how I spend my time.  So I schedule almost every part of my day.

In part, I build this habit because few things are more fulfilling to me than being able to give my complete and total attention to the person / place / task in front of me.  And I can only dial in that kind of presence when I look at my calendar and know that I’m in the precise place I’m supposed to be, and at the precise time.  I work hard at calendaring because I want to be able to work with complete reckless abandon (i.e., total concentration) throughout my day.