Aah… What delight there is in simplicity!
And yet it’s the most difficult thing, isn’t it?
To quote a few very well-known voices from the past:
“The art of publicity is a puzzle of complexity”(Doug Horton)
“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To throw away what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful.”(Marie Kondo)
So yes, there’s that: all that clutter that stands in the way. And while Marie Kondo has made it her mission to physically declutter your house, another tiny revolution in the making is there at your doorstep to de-clutter pretty much any area of your work, or life even. And it’s all there, unpretentious, ridiculously easy to understand, and ready for the plucking and enjoying. Its intriguing name is ‘Min Specs’.
What is ‘Min Specs’ and how does it work?
How does it work?
Whether you work alone or in groups, the idea is the same: with Min Specs, you look at one ‘thing’ (an issue, an object, a service, a concept) and first list the ‘maximum specifications’, ie. all the features – or specifications / specs – that in the ideal world you’d love to see being part of that thing.
Whether it’s technical specifications for a piece of software or manufactured good, conditions for a project (or team, or trip etc.), characteristics you’re looking for in a job, or principles for pretty much anything, Min Specs always starts with that big listing.
And then comes the piece of magic that is actually one of the deep lenses of Liberating Structures: get rid of whatever stands in the way of what you really need.
So the second step of Min Specs, once you’ve worked your way through your big list, is to go through that list again and relentlessly inspect every item you have on your max specs and wonder: “If I violate/don’t keep this particular item (or ‘spec’), will I/we still achieve the overall goal?”. If you answer yes to any of these specs, they should disappear from your list.
Whatever is left is your set of essentials, ie. your list of Min Specs, the few (ideally 3 to 5) non-negotiable specs that really have to be present.
Of course, it may not be perfect and the practice might show some gaps and improvables, but at least you’ve got a nimble plan to get going with, and that makes it easier to review too.
How does Min Specs work deeply on you?
Try using Min Specs a few times, and you’ll notice the DNA of that single structure is slowly seeping into you. Indeed, like its dedicated mushroom illustration, Min Specs grows in the dark and keeps on replicating itself in every department of your work and life, because it’s that essential.
And you may start seeing really endless applications for it.
I’ve used it myself e.g. to:
- Decide what are ways for me and some colleagues to work together and respect each other in that collaboration;
- Structure a report with the most essential chapters/sections;
- Organise the types of notes (content, process, follow up etc.) I want to keep track of during a meeting;
- Decide what to keep and what to chuck away on my desk to have an inspiring desk and office (so the real Marie Kondo);
- Filter out the points that should be part of every ongoing check-in meeting within a client organisation;
- Think about how I want to spend every single day of my life, following a few simple principles;
- Look at essential aspects that I want to guarantee for the education of my children, together with my ex-wife;
- Develop my absolute bucket list of countries that one day I would like to visit…
So as you can see the possibilities are rather open, or even endless…
And then Min Specs stops being just a ‘structure’ and it starts being almost a principle of life. Min Specs almost becomes one of your own life’s Min Specs.
And as happens so often, you also start seeing feedback loops and reverberating effects of the LS repertoire. The Min Specs spirit is nested within Ecocycle Planning and within 9 Whys, it’s meshed in with WINFY or 25/10 Crowdsourcing, and it finds natural connections with e.g. Wicked Questions, What So What Now What etc.
So here’s an invitation to explore this little, simple, yet deep and powerful structure to start decluttering your life and work.
And in the process we can give a bow out to Marie Kondo for helping us appreciate what we’ve known all along:
…that Less is More…