Minimum Viable Product

Behold my new “kitchen counter area” (lower right quadrant of photos). I slapped it together yesterday from stuff I had lying around the house.

A concept I really find useful in minimizing my eco footprint, getting good stuff done in the world, and making life all-around more enjoyable is “Minimum Viable Product.” I first heard this term in the startup-business community, especially in software development. It means what it sounds like. Basically, rather than endlessly tweak your software or other product in pursuit of perfection (and years later it’s still not out the door), you put together the minimum possible version that will work for your customers. Now, this is not license to put out half-baked work; hence the use of the word viable.

There’s a wide no-man’s-land between viable and perfect. Better to get a viable product right out the door, then continuously improve it over time, than to hold your work back from people who need it right now (or yesterday).

In my own life, one arena where I use MVP often is in the design of my home environment. The other day I had an area of my kitchen nicely vacated by the removal of a monster stove. The stove came with the house but it was much too large for the space and for my needs. Now it’s in the home of a family who just moved to the area and needed a stove.

The removal of the stove gave me space to create a counter with storage underneath. Rather than wait for the curbside goddess of free furniture, I took an extra door that I happened to have (came with the house), laid it on its side on top of milk crates, tacked on a piece of fabric from my collection of scraps, and voilĂ !

The buckets for trash, recycling, and compost fit neatly underneath the counter, hidden from view by the fabric. Actually, I quickly found that I like to have the compost accessible at all times without having to bend down and bring it out from behind the curtain, so I am keeping it next to the sink (photo 2).

I am happy with my new counter. Minimum Viable Product! I didn’t even worry about hemming the fabric. This is a work in progress. (I find that allowing works-in-progress brings an element of fun and creativity to daily life.)

Speaking of fabric, I once read a great article about an artsy woman in NYC who’d edit her clothing over the course of her day. She’d start out wearing a long-sleeved sweater (that she’d gotten for $2 from a thrift shop or something), then, as she was bicycling around to her work and errands, she’d decide she wanted short sleeves so she’d cut the sleeves off. Or maybe make it a midriff. And continue on about her day. Minimum Viable Product, constantly evolving!

This blog post is, itself, a Minimum Viable Product. I woke up knowing I wanted to give you a post. But I’m busy getting ready for a talk, a conference, my neighborhood holiday party, and a radio show. So I knew I couldn’t allow myself to spend time fussing over the post.

Over time, I may circle back and add back-story, links for further reading, and so on. In the meantime, hope you enjoy this post and your day!