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1 
September 2014 
HOW TO BUILD 
SOMETHING IN 
20 MINUTES 
And other lessons from our 
Rube Goldberg-a-thon 
LUMINARY LABS WWW.LUMINARY-LABS.COM @LUMINARYLABS
2 
In June 2014, Luminary Labs held its 
inaugural Rube Goldberg-a-thon.
3 
A Rube Goldberg-a-what? 
A Rube Goldberg 
Machine performs 
a very simple task 
in a series of 
overly complicated 
chain reactions. 
The more complex, 
the better.
4 
How it worked 
Following a tutorial from a subject matter 
expert, we challenged our staff to build Rube 
Goldberg-inspired machines that would launch 
Ping-Pong balls into a trash can. 
With just one hour to complete the task, the 
team with the most complex and functional 
machine would be awarded a prize.
5 
Why a Rube Goldberg-a-thon? 
1. It’s a fun team building exercise. 
2. We love making things. 
3. We err on the geeky side.
6 
But it didn’t 
stop at that.
7 
In the course of 1 hour, we moved from 
ideation to validation.* 
Instruction 
Ideation & Sketching 
Rapid Prototyping 
Validation 
Winner 
*Note: This is precisely the process that companies of all sizes seek to adopt in the face of change.
8 
Here’s what we 
learned.
9 
5 Lessons Learned 
1. Don’t overthink it. Just go. 
2. You can make something in 20 minutes. 
3. The best coaches aren’t always the best players. 
4. Mix it up, team diversity works. 
5. Create the space and time to innovate.
10 
1. Don’t overthink it. 
Just go.
11 
Pick a place to start and get 
moving. 
For companies large and small, working 
in an unfamiliar subject area is daunting 
at best. We were encouraged to pick up 
pliers and wire and start making the 
components of a basic hinge. In a very 
short period of time, our skills grew as 
we learned by doing.
12 
2. You can make 
something in 20 
minutes.
Making something is easier that it looks. 
Anyone can engage in rapid prototyping. From 
sketch to validation, our inventions took shape in 
20 minutes or less, proving that making it real is 
possible – even within the tightest time 
constraints. 
13
14 
3. The best coaches 
aren’t always the best 
players.
15 
The biggest losers: our CEO and two 
Rube Goldberg-a-thon organizers. 
The team comprised of our “resident Rube 
Goldberg experts” and our CEO came in last 
place, reminding us that winning solutions 
may not come from where you expect.
16 
4. Mix it up. 
Team diversity works.
A management consultant, an 
analyst, and a marketer walk 
into a bar… and walk out with 
the winning solution. 
Our most diverse team of talent 
proved to be the most successful – 
flexing its planning expertise, tactical 
execution, and some serious math 
smarts. 
17
18 
5. Create the space and 
time to innovate.
19 
It’s all about the experience. 
Our investment in the experience created 
the time and space needed to focus on 
the Rube Goldberg-a-thon. 
We scheduled the event for minimal 
disruption, rearranged our physical 
space, developed a playlist, and brought 
in good eats from our favorite local 
purveyors.
20 
Bonus Reel
21 
The Tools
22 
Sketching
23 
Rapid Prototyping
24 
The Contraptions in Action
25

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How to Build Something in 20 Minutes

  • 1. 1 September 2014 HOW TO BUILD SOMETHING IN 20 MINUTES And other lessons from our Rube Goldberg-a-thon LUMINARY LABS WWW.LUMINARY-LABS.COM @LUMINARYLABS
  • 2. 2 In June 2014, Luminary Labs held its inaugural Rube Goldberg-a-thon.
  • 3. 3 A Rube Goldberg-a-what? A Rube Goldberg Machine performs a very simple task in a series of overly complicated chain reactions. The more complex, the better.
  • 4. 4 How it worked Following a tutorial from a subject matter expert, we challenged our staff to build Rube Goldberg-inspired machines that would launch Ping-Pong balls into a trash can. With just one hour to complete the task, the team with the most complex and functional machine would be awarded a prize.
  • 5. 5 Why a Rube Goldberg-a-thon? 1. It’s a fun team building exercise. 2. We love making things. 3. We err on the geeky side.
  • 6. 6 But it didn’t stop at that.
  • 7. 7 In the course of 1 hour, we moved from ideation to validation.* Instruction Ideation & Sketching Rapid Prototyping Validation Winner *Note: This is precisely the process that companies of all sizes seek to adopt in the face of change.
  • 8. 8 Here’s what we learned.
  • 9. 9 5 Lessons Learned 1. Don’t overthink it. Just go. 2. You can make something in 20 minutes. 3. The best coaches aren’t always the best players. 4. Mix it up, team diversity works. 5. Create the space and time to innovate.
  • 10. 10 1. Don’t overthink it. Just go.
  • 11. 11 Pick a place to start and get moving. For companies large and small, working in an unfamiliar subject area is daunting at best. We were encouraged to pick up pliers and wire and start making the components of a basic hinge. In a very short period of time, our skills grew as we learned by doing.
  • 12. 12 2. You can make something in 20 minutes.
  • 13. Making something is easier that it looks. Anyone can engage in rapid prototyping. From sketch to validation, our inventions took shape in 20 minutes or less, proving that making it real is possible – even within the tightest time constraints. 13
  • 14. 14 3. The best coaches aren’t always the best players.
  • 15. 15 The biggest losers: our CEO and two Rube Goldberg-a-thon organizers. The team comprised of our “resident Rube Goldberg experts” and our CEO came in last place, reminding us that winning solutions may not come from where you expect.
  • 16. 16 4. Mix it up. Team diversity works.
  • 17. A management consultant, an analyst, and a marketer walk into a bar… and walk out with the winning solution. Our most diverse team of talent proved to be the most successful – flexing its planning expertise, tactical execution, and some serious math smarts. 17
  • 18. 18 5. Create the space and time to innovate.
  • 19. 19 It’s all about the experience. Our investment in the experience created the time and space needed to focus on the Rube Goldberg-a-thon. We scheduled the event for minimal disruption, rearranged our physical space, developed a playlist, and brought in good eats from our favorite local purveyors.
  • 24. 24 The Contraptions in Action
  • 25. 25

Editor's Notes

  1. LP: What is a rube goldberg machine – most famous contraptions
  2. LP: Add RG machine stuff
  3. It was a subject we were not experts in – when you don’t know what you’re doing, just pick a place and start.
  4. The hardest part about innovation is just doing. We all get lots of decks, and ideas, but how do you actually do something? We practice what we preach Its that we learned to do something that none of us had ever done. You can do it in 20 minutes. – Possible Don’t overthink it, just go – Just do it Best coaches aren’t the best players – Power to them masses Mix it up - Diversity Treats Help – Incentives One slide – what is a Rube Goldberg Machine – one of his most famous contraptions,
  5. Every team built something. Building is actually not as hard as it seems. Everyone can be a maker. Less ideas and more i-doers. The hardest part about innovation is just doing. We all get lots of decks, and ideas, but how do you actually do something?
  6. Creating anticipation Setting expectations Showing we cared, made participants care Made it Luminary Reflected us, our values Planning & rigor