Monday, October 26, 2009

Living Life in Beta

I mentioned Michael Hyatt in a recent post. He has some good stuff on his blog that resonates with me. He recently posted the following conversation that he had with a friend:

“I am redesigning my blog,” she mentioned. She then showed me a prototype. I was flabbergasted. It looked … great! It was a hundred times better than what she currently has.

Truly wowed, I asked, “So when does it launch?”

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I still have some changes to make.”

A little suspicious, I asked, “How long have you had it at this level?”

“Months,” she admitted.

“What?!” I exclaimed. “This is way better than what you have now,” I blurted out. “Just launch it!”

Unfortunately, many people get stuck in this kind of no-man’s land. They want it perfect before they share it with the world. The problem is that they are missing scores of opportunities by waiting. Instead, they should get used to the concept of “permanent beta.”

Why is there such a difference in perspective between these two people? I think the answer is simple. 21st century thinking. Hyatt exemplifies a 21st century mentality and perspective that allows imperfection and transparency. The goal is not a polished product. The outcome is the process.

I have worked with many colleagues who struggle to collaborate on documents and work within a Web 2.0 context because they cannot bear to work with others in an imperfect state. They must wait until it is "done" before they show anyone their work. But it's really a lie. Perfection is too illusive. We aim for it and strive for it and yet rarely, if ever, catch it.

21st century thinking changes our perspective and allows us to be launch in beta, knowing we can improve it as we move along the journey. And it also acknowledges that in a rapidly changing world, the day may come to discard it before perfection is ever attained.


  1. I would disagree. The goal really is a polished product. If that is not the goal, how would we have any direction as we moved along the journey. What would be the sense of all of these goal settings and having the principals critiquing us. Working for the glory of God should not be sloppy but should aim to be polished.
    Where I would agree is that we need to be vulnerable toward each other and not hide behind our own fascades: but that's far older than "21st century thinking".

  2. Let me clarify that putting something out in "beta" should not denote poor quality. As Hyatt notes, Gmail was in "beta" from 2004-2009...5 years. I would hardly say that it was not a quality product with its millions of users, yet improvements are made all the time.

    What do others think? Should we live life in beta?