Sometimes the simplest solutions are also the most effective ones. Nothing better exemplifies this than The Seabin Project. It’s simple yet effective, and it offers plenty of useful takeaways for agile teams wanting to reduce the complexity of their projects and execute them successfully. Let’s look at what agile teams can learn from The Seabin Project and how they can apply these lessons to their own projects.

The Seabin Project: In a nutshell

Marine pollution is a serious problem, and Australian clean tech startup The Seabin Project is one of the very few to offer a tangible solution to the problem of oceanic pollution. Founded by Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton in 2015, the company launched its first iteration of the Seabin—a floating rubbish bin that moves up and down with the ocean tide, collecting all kinds of ocean trash.

A seabin is essentially just any other “bin,” except that it is installed in the oceans, filled with water and natural filtration materials, and removes plastic, debris, and oil from different water bodies. Seabins are used at ports, docks, marinas, yacht clubs, and other places that are connected to water bodies and offer an effective solution to clean up the waterways and help protect marine wildlife.

Decoding the success of The Seabin Project

The Seabin Project began as a humble prototype by two avid surfers who couldn’t sit back and watch the oceans they loved turn into a mess of floating debris and plastic. Today, the company has put up more than 860 seabins all over the world and has won a number of awards for their creativity, environmental impact, and social good.

That’s not a bad outcome for an idea that came, quite literally, from a garbage can. And anyone taking a macro view of the project might look at it as an enormous undertaking filled with challenges and complexity on top of complexity.

While seabins themselves don’t have lots of moving parts—they are inexpensive and work with the natural ebb and flow of the ocean—the same can’t be said of the initiative as a whole. Think about it: we are talking about cleaning up vast stretches of water bodies, which is no walk in the park. Anything that is undertaken on such a massive scale requires action and investment.

But when you peel back the layers and lay everything bare, you begin to understand just how simple the execution of the project truly is. The Seabin Project doesn’t merely embrace the KISS principle, keep it simple stupid; it revels in it. It is the perfect case study for agile teams. It makes the perfect case that simple ideas are often the best solutions when they are carefully executed.

5 Key Lessons for Agile Teams from The Seabin Project

1. Simple can be effective

Perhaps the most important lesson to be drawn from The Seabin Project’s success is to never underestimate the value of simple solutions. There are no complex installations, high-tech jinxes, or fancy hardware—just a floating bin that collects plastic and other pollutants.

Takeaways for Agile teams:

  • Always look for simple solutions first. They are easy to implement and even easier to maintain.
  • Simple solutions mean fewer complexities. Fewer complexities mean fewer problems in the long run.
  • It’s also much cheaper to implement simple solutions, as they typically require the least resources.
  • Simple solutions are the easiest to learn, and thereby more accessible.

“We didn’t set out with a game plan other than putting a trash can in the water; we didn’t know the above points until we sat down and reviewed what we do and why we do it (just now).”

2. Focus on the long term

The Seabin Project focuses on developing long-term solutions. The company doesn’t believe in finding quick fixes to serious problems but in developing sustainable solutions in the form of Seabins. This approach has defined all their strategies, policies, and decisions.

Takeaways for Agile teams:

  • Develop solutions with an eye on long-term effectiveness and sustainability, even if it means going with the simplest solutions.
  • Don’t fall into the short-term benefit trap. Instead, try to pick a solution that provides you benefits for years to come.
  • Take a holistic view of the situation when choosing a solution. Take everything into account — your budget, your team, stakeholders, clients. By considering the full picture, agile teams will be more likely to focus on long-term results rather than just short-term goals.
  • Never take a dim view of any alternative, no matter how inconsequential or insignificant they might first appear to be.

“[Seabin’s results come] from a combination of naivety, intelligence (academic and or natural), positivity, a can-do attitude, sprinting, iterating (whilst sprinting), eternal optimism, working as a team and vulnerability (yet being firm, fair, direct and polite).”

3. Iterative improvement is the best approach

This innovative trash interceptor device is in its fifth iteration. While experts believe it to be the most effective one yet, it took Seabin more than half a decade to get here. It had a deliberate and gradual journey from being a proof-of-concept prototype that showed it worked to the Seabin of today that comes with pump technology, energy-efficient sensors, and an advanced filtration system.

Takeaways for Agile teams:

  • Instead of trying to solve complex problems in broad strokes, try breaking them down in small, manageable chunks. It also prepares your team for “agile sprints”.
  • There is tremendous value in taking small steps and making gradual improvements over time. You can dump the part of the solutions that aren’t working and add those that are better.
  • Don’t shy away from new ideas and solutions. All the best products out there, and not just Seabin, have come out of constant pursuit of improvement and excellence.
  • Be open to experimentation and use prototyping and other techniques to test and validate new ideas and solutions.

“We look ahead, behind, left, right, up and down to study and predict future developments and trends in technology and society. We then use these insights and developments to shape a better business and impact scaling model to create a better future for the next generations.

As a disruptive startup creating a new market, we are nimble, fail fast, sprint and iterate as needed. If something didn’t work, we have the ability to pivot overnight.

We understand our strengths and weaknesses and then fill the gaps where needed.”

4. Only flexibility and adaptability ensures success in the long run

The Seabin Project’s iterative approach to product development means the company is flexible and highly responsive to changing circumstances. They are always on top of new and emerging environmental challenges, responding with new features and enhancements. It’s the reason why Seabins went from collecting plastic, debris, and cigarette butts to also collecting spilled oil.

Takeaways for Agile teams:

  • Agile teams that can quickly adapt their solutions and pivot their approach as needed can stay ahead of the curve. So, embrace a continuous improvement mindset and be willing to change.
  • Take customer feedback on board and devise new solutions or revise your present ones accordingly.
  • Measure the impact of your actions, track all your key metrics, and make informed decisions before making changes.
  • When facing new challenges or obstacles, meet them head-on. Think about how you can improve your current solutions to address these challenges fully, instead of going for quick-fixes or workarounds.

“Fair and well-managed flexibility in the workplace leads to happiness and a positive work culture, because our greatest asset is our team.”

5. Cross-functional teams can deliver the best results

If the Seabin Project is massive, it’s because all the stakeholders are on the same page. The company’s engineers and scientists, government agencies, marina and dock management, and even volunteers and activists—they are all pulling their weight behind a common goal.

Takeaways for Agile teams:

  • Agile teams made up with diverse skills and perspectives have a better shot and achieving their goals.
  • Cross-functional teamwork is as vital for a project’s success as collaboration.
  • Always try fostering an environment where new ideas are welcomed, criticisms are taken with the right spirit, and team members can speak out freely without any fear of admonishment or push-back.

Final word

Agile teams can take a leaf out of the Seabin Project’s book and adopt simple but effective solutions. Flashy and complex ideas may not always be the best solutions. They can also turn into a massive liability. Instead of trying to achieve one enormous goal in one shot, how about breaking them down into smaller, more achievable goals? Sometimes, simply finding new ways to adapt old ideas may be enough to solve the biggest problems.

And the Seabin Project proves that this is possible.

Seabin Project Impact

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