How to find your Minimum Viable Cat

Give someone three minutes to draw “something that is clearly a cat”, and you will probably get something like this (three minutes is also long enough to Google ‘how to draw a cat’ btw):

by my own fair hand

But give them 15 seconds to do it and they will typically do this:

also, by my own fair hand

They’re both cats, right? The latter picture has just enough data points to inform the viewer that this is indeed a cat — as aesthetically pleasing(!) as the first might be, we didn’t really need all those extra data points to tell us it was a cat.

Putting the task in a time-box was a very easy way to distil out what those essential data points were (ears, whiskers, and nose I think are the key ones!)

You can apply time-boxing to anything. It’s probably the single most useful tool we have at Fluxx. We run RapidStart workshops that compress the product development process — from idea to experiment to learning — into an intense 36 hour event.

Try time-boxing tasks (and particularly discussions) that seem hard, or decisions that take too long, and see what happens.

You will almost certainly get as far as you need to in whatever time-box you allocate, and it will help you sift out what is important, and what is not.

Paul Dawson is a Partner at Fluxx, a company that uses experiments to understand customers, helping clients to build better products. We work with organisations such as Lloyds Bank, Royal Society of Arts, the Parliamentary Digital Service and William Hill.

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