What I’ve learned from my biggest project yet

A look back on some of my newly gained knowledge and experience from 9 months of work on a concept of a future urban greenhouse.

With the finished challenge and all of the work, I think it would be a shame to not summarize my newly gained experience. To be honest, it was definitely my largest project in the field of urban farming so far and certainly one of the top ones overall. The value I got from it reflects all the time and work put into it and there is a lot it gave me, both personally and professionally. I tried to pick out a few main points that I am hoping to go by in the future as well, so let’s get into it!

Have regular deadlines

Time management in a project of this magnitude is one of the crucial components in successful teamwork. Since no one of us has been a part of such a thing, we had problems to implement regular deadlines and self-management mechanisms almost until the last 2 months of the challenge. We were fortunate enough to have a closer core team of really dedicated and progressive people, however, we did not apply the same demands on others as well. This ultimately resulted in losing touch with them and in the end turned out to be fatal in our proposal. Personally, I don’t think it would change their actions or inactivity, but at least we would be able to adjust our aim and try to do their part on our own. Having deadlines would force us to have more conversations and verify their dedication to the project. And to be frank, we can only blame ourselves for this mistake, nonetheless, it is a very valuable piece of experience for me and I am glad for having it.

Always be learning

A phrase that you can see in many motivational posts all around. To be moving forward and making a progress, you obviously need to keep yourself curious and educated. Be open to explore new things and opinions of others. I’ve known this before the project already and I am using it every day, so it isn’t really something that would fit the title of this article. What I actually learned is to be more bold and radical even in stuff you haven’t really tried before, to trust your skills and abilities. This mentality came from coding, where you are constantly facing obstacles and trying to figure them out, in an endless cycle, especially if you are beginning. I will go even further and say it changed the way I think about all of the world right now. Being constantly challenged by something, you gain a certain feeling that everything is possible and the only question is how much time it takes. During the project, I’ve been learning how to work with a camera, cut videos, do after production and some other creative skills. Apart from that, I’ve dug deep into spreadsheets and was able to create a whole financial analysis for the project without any idea what to do at the start. The results are certainly not perfect and there are many aspects to improve, but it is a skill that not everyone has.

Ideas aren’t special

During the development of our proposal, we came up with many perspective ideas. We spent countless hours working on them and fitting them into our project. It seemed like some of them actually might be unique and innovative. At the final event, where all teams presented their full proposal for the first time, we quickly realized it isn’t really like that. Many teams had similar ideas, from algae production through waste management methods to local currencies. Sure, there were minor differences and small details in each of them, but in a macro view, it was all the same. In the current age of information, ideas really lost their original value. The main differentiator is now the execution, and that is what contributes to a success. Since the challenge was only virtual, meaning that the winner is not going to actually rebuild the building, we most likely will never see how any of these would work. However, it is important to keep this in mind also in other projects or businesses.

Make decisions, not questions

Roughly in the middle of the competition, we got stuck on some technical questions and solutions and kept going in circles for more than 2 months. It was an extremely tiring process with a minimum of progress. We were discussing one problem for a few weeks, then diverted to other and after that somehow came back to the original one. We had all agreed on similar ideas and visions, yet we felt a need to narrow down the solution as a whole team. The most frustrating was that we were even able to point out this issue but still could not get out of this loop. Finally, when the final deadlines were coming closer and we started to feel the pressure, we began to make decisions in our respective fields of work and present them as a final solution to the team. Together with the already mentioned deadlines or communication problems, this was the main problem that cost us many points in the proposal to a jury. Sure, an outside input on your approach is important, it can push you to go beyond your borders of knowledge, but in these moments, where very limited progress is being made, this is an easy way to move forward.

Connections are the key

Probably the biggest benefit of participating in this project, that I realized only after taking a break when it all ended, was the number of new connections obtained. Until that point, I haven’t really had an opportunity to meet and work in person with an interest in urban farming. I was simply not putting myself out there, working in the dark on my own projects. Through my team and this challenge, I was able to get to know many amazing and like-minded people. Many of these connections stay up to this date and even some business cooperations were formed. It all gives you a little boost for your work, a thought that the future is bright and there is so much potential. It opened a gate to an incredible journey with many routes to choose from, where you can meet with people you know and many more to make friends with, all working towards a better future.

If you would like to learn more, be sure to check out our project website and read more about the challenge, our final proposal and the team Bohemian AvantGardeners!