A while ago I was asked to be part of a consultation group looking at setting up an LGBTQ+ group for learning disabilities in a certain area. In this article I’m using this example to think about what we mean by ‘rapid prototyping’ and how this fits with our punk approach to making things happen.

The reason I was asked is due to our charity having an advisory group to receive feedback on our work from the perspective of the LGBTQ+ people with learning disabilities that we work with.

Rapid Prototyping

– just a fancy way of saying “Get on with it”!

Our group started a man saying to us one day “There’s no groups in our city for gay people like me”. Our response was “That’s a great point, let’s start one”. And we did.

A couple of weeks they met and decided to call themselves ‘The Wild Rainbows’ and they continue to meet and proudly lead our charity in the Brighton Pride Parade.

At this consultation a lot of the discussion revolved around what people were thinking of doing, and this seemed to start with creating a survey to find out what people wanted. I’m not totally knocking consultation surveys like this but they can be a fantastic way to procrastinate and overthink things.

In a situation like this I’m an advocate of just trying something out. So in this meeting I offered my advice which was

“why not just book a table in a café next week, tell some LGBTQ+ people with learning disabilities that you know and see what happens?”

What’s the worst thing that can happen? Nobody shows up. It’s not the end of the world.

Taking a co-produced approach to Rapid Prototyping

Learning from the experts (the people you work with)

But what this approach also means is you’ve built in a co-produced  approach from the very start. You have a reason to be meeting but what you talk about, and how the group develops, is down to the group.

It may start off small but things do tend to have a habit of growing if you take this approach because not only does everyone feel valued, and find it valuable, but it also seizes the energy of the initial idea and doesn’t Survey Monkey the life out of it. (It’s also much more accessible.)

If nobody turns up then try it again, try it in a different location, at a different time, advertise it differently, do some personal invites, just try things out. If you think it’s a good enough idea to do a survey about it then it’s probably a good enough idea to launch it and develop as you go.

That’s the essence of what I call the ‘Punk approach to getting things done.’

Rapid Prototyping, Punk on a skateboard holding a bag of vegetables that says 'Stay Up Late' on it,

Finding your Minimum Viable Product

It’s also easy to overcomplicate an idea by thinking about it too much. So think about what the minimum thing you need to do is.

An example of this is you need to get from A to B, and you could start with questions such as:

  • How far is it to get from A to B?
  • What do I need to carry?

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) could be a skateboard

It’s a simple solution offering the most basic form of transportation. It meets your core need (getting from point A to point B) with minimal features and effort.

Then as you learn more you can develop the idea further:

  • Add a handlebar and you’ve got a scooter
  • Redesign your transport with a seat and peddles and you’ve got a bicycle
  • Add an engine and you have a motorbike
  • Add more wheels and you have a go-kart
  • Add a roof and more seats, a bigger engine and you have a car.

The skateboard represents the Minimum Viable Product. It’s the simplest, most basic version that starts you off, but also lets you iterate towards something more complex, the car.

If you started with trying to create the car you’ve severly overcomplicated things and you will quite literally get nowhere!

Here’s a few do’s and don’ts for taking this approach in this article Starting New Projects – Our Essential Tips

Taking a punk approach to Rapid Prototyping means:

1. Maintaining Momentum and Motivation

  • Jumping into a project quickly helps maintain the initial enthusiasm and motivation.
  • Early wins and progress boost morale and create more joy in your work as you start to see the benefits quickly.

2. Faster Feedback and flexibility

  • Starting quickly starts means you can protype the idea, test it and adapt it responsively.
  • Early feedback means you can make quick adjustments.

3. Reduced Procrastination

  • I know a lot about procrastination (a key feature of my ADHD) so I find starting promptly reduces the tendency to procrastinate, which can derail projects before they begin through overthinking and overcomplicating.
  • Getting into the swing promotes a more disciplined approach to project management.

(There are lots of articles with advice to deal with procrastination, such as What Stops Me From Starting? from ADDitude magazine)

4. Better Time Management

  • Less planning meetings and more doing makes for a much happier workplace in my experience (sorry to all those colleagues who love a good meeting!)

5. Improved use of Resources

In the example of the LGBTQ+ café group above, the only cost is the time of the staff member arranging it. You could establish the understanding at the outset that this is an important meeting with a minimum budget, so if you want a coffee you’ll need to buy one.

You’re focussing all your efforts on the issue at hand, not on your planning meetings and more biscuits.

6. Enhanced Creativity and Innovation

Spontaneous Ideas don’t just come from nowhere, the seeds have been germinating somewhere in someone’s brain but when that idea pops out a quick start fosters a dynamic environment where spontaneous and creative ideas can flourish.

It also encourages colleagues to take more risks and be more supportive of each other, creating further experimentation and innovation, more impact and quite likely a lot more fun through being in a job where you can quickly see the impact of your work.

7. Competitive Advantage

Having a reputation for getting things done leads to people to ask you for help in getting their things done.

As a charity it also enables us to demonstrate to the people we work with that we value them, we’re upholding our charitable objectives, and demonstrating that we’re working for them.

8. Stress Reduction

Finding out what isn’t going to work is usually a lot less stressful than sitting in meetings trying to predict what those things might be. Peoples’ imaginations start to go wild and potentially worry and doubt will start to set in, that’s not a good footing to start a project on.

9. Better Risk Management

  • in identifying potential problems early means being proactive about ways to mitigate them.
  • Contingency Planning will be more realistic as it’s based on what you know, not on what you might imagine.

10. Increased Accountability

  • You take on the project, or delegate it, but there’s clear roles and responsibilities from the start.
  • You can also track progress immediately and involve your colleagues in working through sticking points.

11. Learning and Development

  • It enables colleagues to develop their skills, creating opportunities to identify areas they may need learning in.
  • Key to this approach is the fast process of learning and adapting as you go.

“Thinking through doing” – as I like to call it

12. People Satisfaction

Whether you call them stakeholders, customers, beneficiaries or whatever, it means that the people you are accountable to; the people you support, volunteers, funders, donors, regulators etc means you are demonstrating your ability to be effective and take responsibility.

It keeps everyone engaged and satisfied, it’s good value for money and you’ll be making things happen.

Find out more

Read Starting New Projects – Our Essential Tips

And Stay Up Late: Redefining Charity Branding with Punk Edge


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Paul Richards Executive Director, Stay Up Late

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