The Minimum Creative Output is the smallest unit of creative work that can be shared or shown. It is a physical, observable evidence (digital or analogue) of creative thinking and helps to develop creative confidence.
The term builds on the concept of Minimum Effective Dose made popular by Tim Ferriss when addressing whatever treatment or procedure: it refers to the least amount of effort, amount, including length of time, necessary to achieve a desired goal. It can be applied to a health treatment, a fitness goal and the like.
Before Tim Ferriss, I had been familiar with Pareto’s Principle, which more or less states that 20% of your efforts will yield 80% of the results. I applied it to everything from weight training to specific technical training when I was doing competitive sports. Even to work related projects… trying to provide value early on the process and maybe move onto another project when that 80% result was reached.
Regarding creativity, when I had my son, for the first few years I had little free time between full time job, commuting and family. Although I love photography and video, I didn´t have time for video, nor for too much photography. I managed to run a personal project #lunchbreak which was a series of individual portrait sessions of nine of my work colleagues, over lunch time, in a spot near the office. It spanned over 18 months since it was hard to get organised, with availability and the like. In total, less than 20 hours of work (more or less). The point is that I found the cracks in my busy schedule to find time for a creative endeavour.
Some time later, I was still yearning for something else… and I got it thanks to a mobile phone and instagram. I started an ongoing minimal project #onmywaytowork where the cracks on my schedule was my commuting to and from work. I would shoot a picture to something that grab my attention during my trip, edit very quickly and upload it to instagram, sometimes in less than a minute. I had found my photographic minimum creative output.
Similarly I have found different minimum creative outputs in other domains:
- Drawing: icons, drawing patterns in a small sticky note
- Video: a 15’’ tiktok clip
- Writing: free haiku, a tweet
- Music: a musical phrase on a keyboard or a diy fretless one string guitar (didley bow)
The whole point is that they take a minute or less, very little gear and minimal skill. At this level, we are not aiming at quality, but getting started, gaining creative confidence, expanding our comfort zone, feeding our brain by learning skills from zero, acquiring the habit to be creative… Of course, if you already have some skill, maybe the benefit is in creating a body of work to show for all your creative thinking.
Some times I think that creativity is the tangible of our imagination, what I called creative thinking. Never mind the terms, just go and make something for the fun of it. And keep doing it.