February 25, 2013 - FILED UNDER Agile Business
Agile Marketing Series: Keeping the A/B Together on an Agile Team
Entrepreneurship is all about creativity, and for a company to grow in new markets where agile marketing strategies are at play, creativity is key. But everyone on your team doesn’t have to be creative for the marketing team to be successful. In fact, as long as the team sticks together on projects, the use of basic agile elements–such as scrums and sprints–can yield amazing results. As always, at the end of the day it’s all about balance.
Structure and Exploration
We’ll start with the mind. There are two basic mindsets found in the workplace: Structural and Exploratory. Structural minds are very reliable and stable. They are the bones and scaffolding of a company. People with this mindset ensure procedures are followed, schedules are met, paperwork is handled, and the bills are paid.
The Exploratory mind, on the other hand, can’t help but say “what if” to stability, always seeking out a new approach and novel solution to test. As it happens, explorers are usually wrong—almost always wrong in terms of a first attempt at something new, in fact. But that’s the greatest part of creativity: failure and learning from it.
As a team, these two approaches can ensure that your company remains agile in the face of failure, but also grounded, as we never want to get too far into a new idea without buy-in from other departments.
Next, a successful agile team balances the old school understanding of success with the new, which is basically that an increase in success rate is an increase in success, whether or not that number is particularly high. This can be a tricky step as most of us are used to thinking of 90%+ as an A grade, but you can help your team adjust with a few key tips:
Think metaphysical thoughts: A branch will grow in the best light, but it must twist as it grows, finding the path of least resistance. While constraint almost always wins (the branch can’t grow everywhere!) when conditions find a tiny opening of opportunity, tremendous new growth can occur and all the leaves can sprout and thrive.
Call it what you want–trial and error, perseverance, agile design–It’s all the same: small learning against small failed attempts leading up to the explosion of a new opportunity. The odds are low, but the upside is huge.
Adjust your Scoring System: In school, 90% correct or better is an A. In test statistics, we try to achieve a 95%-or-better confidence interval. We’re encouraged by big numbers. But sometimes the safe numbers can lead you off the cliff. Not always, of course, but sometimes.
For an example, see my case study about Microsoft’s “lost decade,” where innovations like touch screens and the beginnings of social media were generally denied the green light for further exploration within what was otherwise seen as a creative and dynamic company.
“Try anything once, but never fail the same way twice”: That’s what I always say, and I think I’m going to trademark it. (At least so people who work in my department will stop groaning and will have to give me some cred when I say it over and over.)
It turns out that motto is a fairly apt summary of how many entrepreneurs approach new ideas. (See “New Project? Don’t Analyze—Act” by Leonard A. Schlesinger in this summer’s Harvard Business Review OnPoint issue)
Don’t Split the Group
This might seem like an obvious statement since we’re talking about balance, but nothing destroys the camaraderie of a group more than dividing people up between Team A and Team B, or Explorers and Structurals. That approach may work fine if you’re inventing a new social media platform in your dorm room at Harvard, but it’s not the way to strengthen trust in the agile process at your workplace.
So bring your entire team onboard, whether they tend to have the structural mindset or the exploratory mindset, and don’t make agile optional. Together, their unique approaches will find stability through agile–as well as provide a well-rounded defense for the people outside your group who will inevitably have a tough time understanding the success in small failures.
Image credit: Street Art UtopiaRelated