How to Build Something in 20 Minutes

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September 2014 HOW TO BUILD SOMETHING IN 20 MINUTES And other lessons from our Rube Goldberg-a-thon

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In June 2014, Luminary Labs held its inaugural Rube Goldberg-a-thon.

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A Rube Goldberg Machine performs a very simple task in a series of overly complicated chain reactions. The more complex, the better. A Rube Goldberg-a-what?

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Following a tutorial from a subject matter expert, we challenged our staff to build Rube Goldberg-inspired machines that would launch Ping-Pong balls into a trash can. With just one hour to complete the task, the team with the most complex and functional machine would be awarded a prize. How it worked

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Why a Rube Goldberg-a-thon? 1. It’s a fun team building exercise. 2. We love making things. 3. We err on the geeky side.

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But it didn’t stop at that.

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In the course of 1 hour, we moved from ideation to validation.* *Note: This is precisely the process that companies of all sizes seek to adopt in the face of change. Instruction Ideation & Sketching Rapid Prototyping Validation Winner

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Here’s what we learned.

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Don’t overthink it. Just go. You can make something in 20 minutes. The best coaches aren’t always the best players. Mix it up, team diversity works. Create the space and time to innovate. 5 Lessons Learned

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1. Don’t overthink it. Just go.

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Pick a place to start and get moving. For companies large and small, working in an unfamiliar subject area is daunting at best. We were encouraged to pick up pliers and wire and start making the components of a basic hinge. In a very short period of time, our skills grew as we learned by doing.

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2. You can make something in 20 minutes.

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Making something is easier that it looks. Anyone can engage in rapid prototyping. From sketch to validation, our inventions took shape in 20 minutes or less, proving that making it real is possible – even within the tightest time constraints.

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3. The best coaches aren’t always the best players.

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The biggest losers: our CEO and two Rube Goldberg-a-thon organizers. The team comprised of our “resident Rube Goldberg experts” and our CEO came in last place, reminding us that winning solutions may not come from where you expect.

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4. Mix it up. Team diversity works.

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A management consultant, an analyst, and a marketer walk into a bar… and walk out with the winning solution. Our most diverse team of talent proved to be the most successful – flexing its planning expertise, tactical execution, and some serious math smarts.

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5. Create the space and time to innovate.

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It’s all about the experience. Our investment in the experience created the time and space needed to focus on the Rube Goldberg-a-thon. We scheduled the event for minimal disruption, rearranged our physical space, developed a playlist, and brought in good eats from our favorite local purveyors.

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Bonus Reel

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The Tools

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Rapid Prototyping

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The Contraptions in Action

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