How I start every project

Date: 2023-04-13 | creation-cycle | simple-scalable-systems

I build a lot of projects in my free time - usually 10+ per year ranging from businesses to technology explorations to creative technology. But I only have so much free time so waste means less finished project or, worse, finished projects that nobody wants.

In this post I'll detail a Simple Scalable System I employ at the start of every project to avoid this waste.

Project Hypothesis

That system is to start each project with a hypothesis - detailing what I'm building, why it's useful, and why it makes sense right now.

Get my full Project Hypothesis Notion template for free.

- [Mission] Big Picture:
- [Problem]
    - Affecting Who:
    - JobToBeDone:
    - Obstacle:
    - Impact (w data):
- Opportunity + Positioning:
- Hypotheses / Assumptions:
- [Solution] MVEs:
    - Recommended:
    - 10%:
    - 10x:
    - 1/2Cost:
    - LeaveAsIs:
  • [Mission] Big Picture - We start with the mission of the domain we're working in. This could be the mission of your company, your project, your brand, etc. It helps to set the stage like this so we can easily tell if the project we're planning to build even makes sense within this context.
  • Problem - Next we detail the problem we want to solve including how we know it's a real problem in the real world. It's useful to start with a problem because it has inherent value and is a great way to avoid The Build Trap.
  • Opportunity + Positioning - There are infinite problems to solve so why should you solve this one? If there's no good reason for you to solve this particular problem then it's likely best to pass and look for a better opportunity.
  • Hypotheses / Assumptions - The truth is there are a lot of unknowns about the world. If you always knew the outcomes of everything you did then you'd be a billionaire. Chances are you aren't. So it's important to list out the existential hypotheses / assumptions your project relies on - things that if you're wrong about them the whole project will fail.
  • Solutions - Now that we have a framework for what we're trying to accomplish and why we can think of ways to actually solve for it. It's best to list multiple ideas from different perspectives - things that make the problem 10% better, 10x better, or that we can do for half the cost. Another interesting angle is what happens if we don't solve it at all. This should give a reasonable range of options to choose from which allows us to compare / contrast to pick the best one.

Next Steps

Now that you've got a good foundation for what you're going to do and why you can move forward to actually doing it. I find the best way to execute is through iterations of The Creation Cycle utilizing Minimum Viable Experiments to gather data, progress to your goals.