What is a Minimum Viable Adult?

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I was first exposed to agile methodology when my bosses came back from a world meeting having just learned about it. They came back from Germany with the type of enthusiasm and energy you have after a really great session with your life coach or a workshop full of epiphanies and new friendships. It was fun to see this adrenaline rush in the office; we were kind of in a funk before. They told us how we were going to build minimum viable products, use scrum project management, and it would all lead to more innovation. I was very interested in hearing more but skeptical about how long this would last around the office.

Remnants of the global meeting still linger around the office, but I wouldn't say it was a complete culture shift. However,


I was fortunate enough to learn more in graduate school. Only this time, I was learning about "design thinking" I learned more when I read the book Designing Your Life. This is where I learned one of the most important things about design thinking (to me). Design thinking is all about having several goals - not to put all of your eggs in one basket. When we put all of our passion, effort, and hope into one path, we are devastated. We can't pick quickly get back up and try something else. I don't think our society does a great job of teaching children the importance of failure and how to deal with it (other than the learning moment from an after-school special tv show. Cue music, please.). But I want to write more about that in another post.

The other big thing I learned in this book, but I did not appreciate until later, is the importance of action. Just doing shit. Trying it out and figuring out as you go. Plan way less. I've always been a planner. Not to say I'm completely Type A. I'm not. I swing back and forth between organized and hot mess. But I love to plan. I've always loved school supplies and been a proud owner of an agenda my whole (supplemented with my calendar on my phone). I can't tell you how many plans I've made and never executed. Everything from weight loss and exercise to project plans at work. These plans rarely work out, but I love the feeling of planning everything out. Its a rush for me. But it wasn't resulting in anything positive.

DYL tells the reader to try new careers through internships or small projects to try something new out. There is also a whole chapter on the importance of networking and having quick coffee chats with people in careers that you want.

My intrigue in this new way of thinking changed to a passion. I started reading everything I could on the subject. The need to act and not plan was pressed upon me further when I read Creative Confidence and The Confidence Code. I have so much more to learn but here is my understanding of design thinking and agility thus far:

  1. Start with empathy and understanding. To solve problems or create something great you need to start with who is going to be on the receiving end. For this blog that's me. If you're designing something for yourself this can be done by extensive interviews. For self-improvement purposes, I think about this stage as where I really explore what I want in life and who I want to be. Here is where I ask myself some tough questions and gain clarity. This is also where I give myself endless self-compassion and empathy. Wherever I'm at and whatever I'm going through, I remind myself that I am human.

  2. The second step is to define. This is more than just stating the problem. In design thinking you reframe the problem to be positive. Instead of asking myself "Why can't I lose weight?" I can reframe the problem to "What are activities bring me joy and improve my physical health?". Instead of asking "Why am I still single?" I can change that to "How can I meet like-minded people and expand my community?".

  3. Ideate. Here is where I get to plan and restrict my planning. The ideation stage focuses on brainstorming lots and lots and lots of ideas. There are no bad ideas. You can only build on ideas. You are just trying to figure out the least amount of effort to make something and put it out there. You're not brainstorming the perfect solution. Just something simple that you can build upon. Come up with 4 essential things that have to be there in order for the product to be viable.

  4. Prototype. Experiment. Action. Doing it. Just going for it. While reading "The Confidence Code" it really clicked for me. This is where I started to think about prototyping in dating. This is when Tinder and Bumble made sense to me. People don't want to sort through hundreds of people, hype themselves up about one great person on paper, craft the perfect message, and have the date fail. There is a lot of gross things about Tinder and Bumble but it does allow people to prototype the dating experience. It encourages people to put themselves out there and start an iterative process of meeting people quickly and figuring out what they want in a relationship. I thought about it at work too. In meetings, I'm terrified of speaking up in case I sound stupid. But I have to act. That's how I can grow confidence.

  5. Test. Get feedback. Iterate. Figure out what is working and what is not and make improvements. Make small incremental changes and make it constant process.

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I'm using design thinking as a framework to develop the life I want. I am going to attempt to figure life out, while also accepting that there is no finish line. In this never-ending journey, I will send my self some compassion when I mess up. Design thinking is about defining what I want to do in a way that creates possibility, then proposing a lot of solutions, and going for it. Ultimately, design thinking is putting myself out there even when I'm scared, and just make minor improvements - all while I nurse my anxiety with wine and procrastination, which makes me a "Minimum Viable Adult".

There is a lot more to design thinking, which I will learn and share throughout this adventure. Again, this is not meant to be an expert page for design thinking. This is a page devoted to me sharing how I am using it to improve my life and hopefully inspire others along the way.