Build the right thing fast, instead of the wrong thing right.

Build the right thing fast, instead of the wrong thing right.

At Storytell, we do a lot of user-driven rapid prototyping and learning in public. That process can be vulnerable and messy, because inevitably, we learn from our users who teach us that what we thought was the right answer to their problem was actually just a starting point.

Aaron, our Principal engineer, describes the way we build at Storytell as:

"Make it work. Make it right. Make it delightful." - Aaron Greenlee

I carry that iterative process over into all aspects of my life, including how I build physical things, like a kitchen I'm putting into my Sprinter van as a weekend side project.

I like to rapid prototype with cardboard when I'm building physical things. It's the equivalent of getting a software MVP out into the world quickly to learn from – and just like with software, it's amazing how much learning you can get from cardboard.

I started with a simple cardboard kitchen that my brother and I constructed while on a road trip in Seattle in about 2 hours. I had that version in my van for about a month, and I learned a lot from it – for example: The first version, at left below, didn't have an induction cooktop built in, and it didn't have a countertop cover over the refrigerator. Those were both things I realized I wanted, and I built them into the second version, at right:

Here are more pictures of me building out the second iteration of my cardboard kitchen based on everything I'd learned from the first iteration, which I was able to easily tear out:

After building the second version of the kitchen, I realized I wanted to swap out the kitchen sink for a stainless steel version. Again, an easy swap:

Building a kitchen from cardboard is just like building software – you think that the approach you're taking will lead to a "win," but the majority of the time, it leads to learnings, and the key is to iterate quickly based on those learnings.

Here's a Youtube video of my build process:

Putting it all together:

I've got three kids, and I love being an "Adventure Dad." We've been able to have some incredible experiences with our (very usable!) cardboard kitchen. I'm looking forward to learning from this V2, and eventually building a more permanent version out of wood, once we really understand how we want it to work. For now, we're off to our next adventure, using our cardboard MVP!