Five days that built an MVP

I’m not sure that even I would have believed that we could complete our first ‘Minimal Viable Product’ (MVP) in 5 days. But at 6pm yesterday evening, one of the Ventilator Crowd’s squad uploaded a video of their first working demonstrator solution. That would be remarkable by any standards – but in this case, the contributor, Thomas, is the youngest member of our squad. At just 14 he has already made a huge contribution and energised our project. Congratulations to him and the rest of the team for achieving this first big win.

We are currently working on two distinct designs in parallel. The first is a re-visioning of a student project that was published out of MIT in 2010. The second, is a radically different design that we hope will overcome some of the potential short-comings of the MIT work.

Our conviction that the crowd-sourcing approach is both viable and necessary has been bolstered by the emergence of other teams working in the same way. A team from Dublin have a very impressive website .. created on the same day as this one : They appear to be using the MIT approach of mechanising an existing, off-the-shelf, hand-operated BVM (“Bag Valve Mask”). This approach has some definite positives – it leverages a tried-and-trusted solution augmented with a motor to squeeze the bag and a control system. The Dublin team are ‘open sourcing’ their designs – as are we. We wish them every luck, will share any of our developments with them and collaborate wherever needed.

A third project is being run by Ethan S. Chaleff in the US – and he has done a great job of collecting requirements and outlining a system design.

As a Systems Engineer I am absolutely convinced that the various teams need to keep working on different parallel designs – sharing information and collaborating where we are able. This is based on an idea called ‘Ashby’s law of requisite variety’: The idea that a certain amount of diversity in viewpoints and perspectives is required for groups and organizations to address complex problems as they emerge. It’s about not putting all of our eggs in one basket. If one of the emerging solutions has some issue or defect – then maybe one of the solutions from the other teams will solve it. Maybe one will be ‘better’ .. maybe a hybrid solution will give us what we need.

However this works out, I am convinced that this crowd-sourced, agile, jugaad approach to confronting the problems that confront us are powerful, necessary .. and in the process exhilarating to be part of.

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