Reading this book, I found I’d always lived in permanent beta, I just didn’t have such an elegant way to explain it. For those of us who spend our days in or near the tech world, the planning and iteration ideas presented in the book will sound very familiar. This is much the way you plan and develop web-based software or services.
I can say from personal experience the approach works well and you can be quite happy in a state of permanent self-evolution. Summing up how to be happy in permanent beta looks like this: Gauge, Engage, Repeat
Gauge: Scan the market you’re in or want to be in for trends, big ideas and things on their way out. Read, listen, attend conferences and just think – you’ll soon master the art of trend spotting. Gauge your own risk tolerance for the things you find as well as how your skillset currently puts you in a position to either capitalize on what you find or be hurt by it.
Engage: Talk to people you know and trust in your network to validate and get additional perspective on the trends you see. Ask for opinions on how you stack up and ideas for things you may want to consider doing – changing companies, changing jobs, learning a new skill, stay where you are you’re good, etc. Then put that feedback together with your thoughts and tweak your approach as needed.
Repeat: Timing of the repetition will depend on the type of career you have and where you are in your career. If you’re new to your career or in a fast paced industry, repeat often. If you’ve been around a while or change comes more slowing in your industry then your tweaks will take more time to put in place so the cycle will be slightly longer.
Remember that sometimes you will need a tweak and sometimes a bigger move, but if you get in the habit of gauge, engage, repeat you’re likely to do just fine with a series of tweaks versus major shake-up type moves. You’ll find having a few key skills will make this process easier. My favorites are constant curiosity and mental elasticity. I always hire for these traits and have landed some of my favorite jobs by being great at these things.
Constant Curiosity: Being forever curious about things and why things are or are not a certain way will serve you well in this new world. While people tend to be either born this way or not, if you’re not you can gain enough skill here to make a difference. Ask yourself a few simple questions every day about at least a couple things you experience: How could this be better? What do I love about this that could be transferred to another product / service / experience? If I could redesign this from the ground up I would…. Channel your inner toddler with endless questions and have some fun.
Mental Elasticity: This is the ability to stretch your thinking around new and often ambiguous topics with ease. Also more often a “born with it” than not trait, you can also train yourself here to with some simple questions: What is the core framework that this product works in? What other products have or should have a similar framework? Can the learnings translate? Learn to look for base level commonality that is structural then you can put any topic on top of it. That’s the basics and from there you can move on to strategic frameworks, white space ideas and so on. You’ll soon learn to apply known-good frameworks from one space to a totally new space in a new way. Building this skill helps you determine the tweaks and big moves as well as their impact with more ease.
So have some fun embracing life in permanent beta. After all, if you don’t like it, you can always re-release yourself.