Being comfortable working in perpetual beta

WHEN I was in Silicon Valley, one of the first companies we visited was IDEO.

IDEO (pronounced "eye-dee-oh") is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organisations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow.

One of the most powerful things anybody said to us during our five-day tour of the leading tech companies was something that someone from IDEO said which is that it is very important in the digital age we live in, to be comfortable working in "perpetual beta".

For those of you who have not heard the expression "beta" before, it is basically an industry term used to refer to the first release, or first version of any given product or thing. Often, a beta version is not complete, and has not been fully-tested, but rather it has been put out to market for the people to provide feedback on how the version can be improved.

Rather than commit extra research and development hours into making the product into what they think it should be only to discover they are completely on the wrong track on what the market is demanding, they release a beta version and  use the feedback to develop the product in a direction the market demands.

By being comfortable being in a constant state of "perpetual beta", you can challenge your team to never rest on their laurels and constantly innovate, which is definitely a required skill if you want to succeed not only in the technology industry but indeed the ever-changing business world.

So how can you get your team to be comfortable with being constantly in this state of perpetual beta? 

This question can probably be answered by a series of questions and asking these questions at the right time. The types of question that should be asked include:
• How can we make this better?
• What does the market want?
• What can we learn from this experience?
• How can we think differently?
• How can we take risks?

As the founder and owner of two businesses, you really want to try and ask these questions on an ongoing basis and empower your team to be quite used to changing and striving for improvement.

Some personalities will naturally take to this way of thinking while for others, it will be a complete mindset shift and will require constant reminders and gentle pushes to get them into this habit of thinking. The exciting part of being in a constant state of perpetual beta is that business will never be boring because you are always coming up with new ideas and tossing them around!

Let's Be Frank…

Another concept I was exposed to on this trip, though not from IDEO, but from a company called Embarcadeo Partners was the importance of having "frank dialogue". This concept basically involves having the confidence to speak up when you feel that something is not right, or could be made better, no matter what level of seniority you are in the business.

Again as a business owner or leader in your business, it is skill that you need to nurture and harness within your organisation. To achieve this you need to make sure you give everyone the opportunity at any given meeting to speak up and in fact encourage them to come to each and every meeting with a point a view. If they never contribute, you need to challenge them on this and encourage them to contribute on the future.

Clarify every step of the way

Another technique that a business coach from has shared with me recently, which I found personally very useful when you are encouraging innovation and introducing any new concept to the business, is to seek constant clarification from the team on what they heard you say. There can be a vast difference between what you think you are telling your team and what they hear, interpret the information or perceive a situation to be.

I consider myself a clear communicator but using this technique of seeking clarification i.e. asking staff to repeat back to me what my request has been using a prompt such as "so just to make sure you're clear, can you run through what your plan of attack will be?" or "can you just repeat back to me what you think I've just said to make sure I've been clear enough?" is a simple yet highly effective management technique.

I know time can be of the essence when doing business, and you may not have the privilege of having a lot of time to workshop, research and development however being innovative can be integrated with what you do as part of general business using some of the techniques I've shared in the post.

So, encourage:

• Being in a state of perpetual beta
• Frank dialogue and coming with a point of view
And seek to clarify the communication you are having at every step, and just see what good stuff happens in your business.

By Yvette Adams, founder of The Creative Collective.


The Creative Collective director Yvette Adams.
The Creative Collective director Yvette Adams.


T: @creativecollect

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