P003: Minimum Viable Process

Mind The Gap

Ira Glass is the host and producer of the hugely influential weekly radio show This American Life, but that wasn’t always the case. In 2008, he recorded a four part interview with Current TV detailing his growth in the arts that resonated so completely with creative people worldwide that it is being referenced and built upon to this day. In a section of the interview dubbed “Closing the Taste Gap,” Glass takes two minutes to expertly distill the doubt and exasperation that surely afflicts anyone who is just starting and prescribes a way forward. Last week, videographer Daniel Sax gave that quote a vibrant typographic treatment that elevated the entire concept. I beg you to take a moment and enjoy:

The Gap on Vimeo

While the idea that you can brute force your way to proficiency is not unique, a question that is left unanswered is what to do with the substandard work being produced before your reach proficiency? Is it possible to make an impact with your work before your skills are fully formed?


Perhaps the most confusingly-named concept in the world of lean startup tactics is the Minimum Viable Product, or MVP for short. In a nutshell, a MVP measures enthusiasm for a product while minimizing the up-front development time of said product, allowing for the message to be molded and refined in response to the market. Perhaps the canonical example would be the landing page announcing a new product or service that encourages you to “sign up for more information.” Of course at this point, the product doesn’t exist any more than the Photoshop comps required to build the landing page. Following a modest paid-media campaign, development will start on the product only if enough people express interest. If this all sounds horribly cynical to you, then congratulations: you are a human being. But maybe we can find a way to reconcile MVP and brute force creative iteration?

Try Minimum Viable Process

If we accept that there are no shortcuts to creative competency, then we must find efficiencies elsewhere at the start. By refining your process and stripping away the overhead, you get out of the gate quicker and simplify the revision and refinement cycles. Some target areas to consider:

  • Manage expectations. Don’t just stamp the word “beta” across your logo. Communicate directly with your audience and let them know that this is a work in progress. Create tight feedback loops that trades the polish of the finished product for a sense that the reader is being heard.
  • Skip the big launch. Do you have a website and a Twitter account? No? That’s cool I’ll wait here for the 5 minutes it takes to set that up. Once you do, put the absolute bare minimum on each. Launch with a default website template and an Egg Twitter icon and put the focus on your work.
  • Reserve the right to pivot. For example, if you realize you don’t really care about adding week-in-review-style links to your email newsletter, then stop doing it in the third issue.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Google Analytics isn’t enough. Create a dialog with your audience and value their response. By minimizing your overhead at the start, you can iterate against user feedback without backtracking over months worth of work.

By setting limitations on the secondary BS, you can force yourself to focus on producing the work. If the work turns out to be great, no one is going to remember that you launched without a proper logo.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron