Finding Your “Minimum Viable Product” as an Educator

Messy Teacher Desk

Minimum Viable Product is a business term.

It’s one of many entrepreneurial concepts I wish I’d learned as a teacher.

What is a Minimum Viable Product? And why is it a useful concept for educators?

Below, you’ll find the “short, simple definition of minimum viable product” I requested from ChatGPT. It might not be perfect but is certainly viable for this email. (More here about using AI to create minimum viable versions of what you need.)

“A minimum viable product (MVP) is the simplest version of a new product that can be created to test its basic functionality and gather feedback from users.”

It’s possible that the word “product” makes this idea feel itchy to educators.

Or maybe it’s the word “minimum.” Education is filled with reminders that every Child Is An Individual and Failure Is Not An Option and There Are No Shortcuts.

But let’s put all of that aside for now.

Day-to-day teaching is filled with tasks that can leave you stuck in a perfectionist loop or a zigzag of indecision.

Here’s one example: You’d like to change the way students turn in papers, and you’re going to get to that. . . as soon as you can find the perfect organizing trays, assemble them, and type up a nice looking label.

You’re looking at about an hour or two, plus delivery wait time if you order these trays online.

To get unstuck, try moving forward as fast as possible, in straight line, directly toward something that’s good enough. 

Would it be possible, right now, to simply designate a turn-in area on top of a shelf? Write a hand-made sign with an arrow that says, “Turn your papers in here.” Tape it to the wall.

Your one-hour task has now become a 5-minute task. You can buy storage trays in the future if you’d like to make the arrangement more permanent, but your basic goal is already accomplished.

The example above is just one small-scale example. Teachers often spin through the steps of the Aha-Moment / Frustration Cycle. Speeding up the process can save anywhere from hours to weeks.

Often, the best way to push yourself into Minimum Viable Product thinking is to shorten your deadline drastically.

This forces you not just to work faster, but to think about the whole task differently. 

  • Is there a way to get this assignment graded and recorded in ten minutes instead of aiming for the end of the week?
  • Does the activity you’re about to plan already exist on Teachers Pay Teachers?
  • Might those future teaching resources you think you need to organize already be as organized as they need to be?
  • Could you get those file folders labeled more quickly and I am phrasing this as a question even though what I really want to say is label files by handnever type a labeland for the love of all that is holy, do not purchase a label-maker?

Fun fact: this post is a Minimum Viable Product.

Because of the topic, I forced myself to write the first version of this post with much less lead time than usual.

There are concepts in here that I’m still working out.

There may be some typos. But almost everything I write has the same minimum goal: offering you at least one takeaway that makes the week ahead more manageable.

Hopefully this post met that goal. 

If not, there’s always next time.

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