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Will Your Project Create Impact? | Test It in Sixty Minutes or Less

Written by: Bill Sherman on Saturday, 4 May 2013, 2:35 AM

Too often, we think of impact as long-term result–something that requires months (or even years of effort) before it yields any visible results.

These long-term goals can often lead us astray, because we misdirect our efforts on solutions which do not really meet a need or solve a problem.

It’s true that large projects often take a lot of time to yield results. However, you can apply the concepts of micro-impact and very rapid prototyping to determine whether a large project will be worth your time.

  • Micro-Impact: the ability to create observable impact in the present moment; the task must be something you can complete within an hour or less
  • Very-Rapid Prototyping: create and test a hypothesis before you invest significant time into the project

It makes sense to invest a very small amount of time into a project, specifically to determine whether the potential results will be worth a greater investment of time. If the project cannot pass the Very Rapid Prototyping test.

Plan the Prototype

Whether you’re working by yourself or with a team, give yourself just one hour to plan your prototyping project.

  • What might a solution look like?
  • How could we build a prototype in an hour or less?
  • Who would be the greatest critic of your idea?
  • Who can help you evaluate the idea?
  • Who can help make the prototype better?

Create the Prototype

Then, you (and your team) have another hour to create the prototype. Your solution doesn’t have to look beautiful or work perfectly.

At this point, your solution doesn’t even need to work! It just needs to be defined.

What can you create in an hour? A lot, actually:

  • A wireframe sketch for a new appĀ 
  • A process map that solves a business need
  • A quick sketch for a brand identity or a campaign
  • An elevator pitch for a project or new business

The very rapid prototyping process creates an arbitrary constraint. Sure, you could spend a day or a month perfecting your idea. But why invest that much time until you’ve tested the idea.

Very rapid protyping challenges you to make choices and be agile. Your goal will be to move you past analysis paralysis and achieve something that you can share with others (and get their feedback).

Evaluate the Prototype

Once you have a prototype, you need to step back and look at the results critically:

  • What choices seem most effective within the solution?
  • Which choices limit the solution?
  • Did you uncover any constraints which will make this solution difficult to implement?
  • Is this idea worth more of your time? (Would others agree with your assessment)?

Remember that it’s easy to fall in love with a new idea. So, you may even test your idea’s strength by writing its premortem. You may even invite others to help you write the idea’s premortem.

If your rapid prototype passes the premortem test, then you may want to invest more time to develop it.

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