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Minimum Viable Creativity from Ryan
A guest post from Ryan Mulholland this week.
Thanks for reading each week. It means the world to me.
Quote of the week:
“Standing on the fringes of life... offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This week, I’m sharing a guest-post from my friend Ryan Mulholland. This was something he wrote some time ago and it has been read, shared, and viewed an extraordinary amount of times. It was also shared by the Co-founder at Morgan Creek Digital, Anthony Pompliano!
I think about this one all the time when I approach my creative pursuits and you should too.
It’s tough to be a creator.
It’s even tougher to do it consistently. The hurdles to creation are many and the way around is usually the hardest route. The sight of others’ success in public weighs heavy like an anchor keeping us from going anywhere.
If there’s an anchor weighing us down, the mass of that anchor is made up by perfectionism.
I’m not a perfectionist. Far from it, in fact. This trait has proved contradictory to the norm in my professional industry planning events and travel for corporate clients. Every day I’m made aware that perfectionist qualities are something I shun, having done so over and over again for five years.
But when it comes to creating, suddenly my standards morph. I become Steve Jobs creating the original Macbook, demanding nothing less than perfection. What does this say about the act of producing for public consumption?
It means there’s something immensely scary about uninhibitedly tossing our creation out into the world.
If we look to business we can find a way around this, and all it takes is a simple change in approach.
Embrace minimum viable creativity.
You may be familiar with the idea of a minimum viable product. Eric Reis introduced the idea of minimum viable product (MVP) as part of the Lean Startup movement around 2009. I’ll let the originator provide the definition:
“The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”
A minimally viable product isn’t a perfect version. The entire point of an MVP is to get progress going, get money in the door, and to get feedback loops started so the product can improve.
An example — Uber used an MVP launch style. Uber launched as a luxury car hailing service before eventually moving toward the ride sharing model we know today after testing the market and playing with feedback they’d received from beta users.
When a startup is using MVP strategy it can take pressure off of the pursuit of immediate perfection.
My idea is that we should think of creativity in the same way.
To remove pressure at the start, aim for minimum viable creativity (MVC).
Minimum Viable Creativity: The creative process that allows you to produce quicker and collect the maximum amount of validated learning from your audience with a lower barrier to production.
To be clear, just because an MVP is not perfect does not mean that it’s poor or incomplete. The same is true with MVC. The goal is not to produce low-quality work, but only at the quality needed to get progress started and get the feedback you need to turn good into great.
Anthony Pompliano, a prolific finance writer explains this perfectly in a podcast interview. His strategy is to write “high frequency - good enough quality” writing to make sure he’s producing so much content that the reader can choose what to consume.
MVP and MVC are similar. Since the act of creating brings along a product, you might even argue that they’re the same. The key difference is that MVP focuses on the physical details of a product while MVC focuses on intangible benchmarks to bring value to the consumer.
A typical visual representation of MVP looks like this:
Notice that an MVP does not fill from the bottom of the pyramid by building up from the foundation. Instead it fills from the side, touching lightly on each of the important aspects of a product.
MVC can be thought of with a similar visual.
Creation is often associated with a lightbulb moment, but that flash of inspiration birthing an idea is really only creation’s foundation. Your work should contain pieces of each level on the pyramid above. Producing with only the foundation won’t create a feedback loop that pushes you onward and upward. If all key elements are present it will spark magical feedback and give you better direction in creating value for your audience.
Value sits at the top of the pyramid and should be the North Star benchmark in determining that you’ve created something ready for production. It’s everything.
The minimum viable method has several perks, whether for a product or creation. Here are some of the benefits that apply to MVC which have roots in MVP.
1. Quicker Production
Like an MVP, using the MVC model allows you to produce work faster. It helps erase the mental hurdle that many struggle with in pushing content out to the public eye. If you make sure you’ve checked a few of the key boxes you can feel confident in knowing that your work is good enough to fight for space online or in the market. Producing quicker creates more content and creates flywheel momentum for your platforms, increasing the odds that what you’re producing will catch on.
2. Better Feedback
The MVC model allows feedback in the door from your audience and will speed up the iterating process of becoming a great creator. Just as a startup needs feedback on their product to produce better future versions, we need feedback as creators to make sure we’re providing value to our audience in a consumable, attractive form. If you include all elements of creation in your MVC version, the feedback will be better and the reach will be wider than if you’re using only fundamentals.
3. Testing Concepts
The main point of an MVP is to test ideas in the market. Many times when we’re creating we haven’t quite figured out a niche or an audience. The MVC model allows you to try out ideas to see what sticks. If you need to adjust you’ll have a good idea within a few iterations. Many successful creators have pivoted from their original starting point. It’s part of the journey.
We’re humans and we don’t cut ourselves any slack. When we create it’s easy to feel disappointed in the end result after ages of work and meager reception. Loving what you’ve created is an idea that needs to be abandoned, and here’s why.
If you’ve created something, it’s yours. But it came from the thoughts of your brain and the work of your hands, and because of this you’ll never be surprised with what the end result.
I’ve heard famous musicians say that they can’t appreciate songs they’ve written as much as others for this exact reason. What a fantastic, yet melancholic concept to understand.
For writers it’s common to wrestle with an essay so much that you start to hate it. Popular newsletter writer Dan Shipper speaks to this journey:
It’s so hard to love your own work. The happy ending, best-case-scenario in this example is it “didn’t turn out so bad after all.” That’s not love, but it’s still on the positive side of the spectrum. Don’t worry about being in love with what you’ve done, but also don’t worry about hating it either. Once you’re done it all comes back around and won’t be as bad as you think at the low points of the process.
Using an MVC mindset is exactly how to break free of this mood swing. Pointing to elements of your work that match each point on the pyramid is all you need to feel better about launching.
Don’t spend any more time despising what you’re creating. Finding the quickest, best way to produce is always the best course of action at the beginning, so use MVC to throw hurdles aside and power through down the path toward stronger creativity.
This year has been a mess for me. I’m sure many of you feel the same.
Like I mentioned in the last issue, I’ve been able to visit friends & family back in Michigan for a few weeks. And just like that, I felt in sync with myself again.
There’s an interesting ‘magic’ to being back in your hometown. So much so, it makes one wonder why one might have ever left. Conversely, I’m a better person for having gone out of my comfort zone and moved across the country.
What is life without learning?
Wishing you and yours the best,