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Try It And See What Happens

bungee jumping

Image by peregrinari on Flickr

I’ve noticed in meetings, whether on committees or campus meetings or pretty much any type of meeting, a concern that comes up is uncertainty. How do we know that people will use this service? Will this initiative work? What if we fail? But people aren’t only worried about failure. They’re worried about success too. What if too many people come? What if too many people use this service and it is unsustainable? What if we have too much success?

But uncertainty is the nature of innovation. You can’t possibly know all the consequences of a particular service, initiative, project, etc. In addition, often the unintended consequences are some of the most fruitful. All the planning and studies in the world will never tell you exactly what is going to happen.

While it’s important to plan and anticipate challenges it can also be a hindrance to action. Endless surveys, needs assessments and studying of the situation can bring ideas to a standstill.

If the initiative is something small a good question to ask is “why don’t we try it and see what happens?” If the project is something larger some study is likely necessary, but don’t let it bog you down. Instead of doing everything right the first time make an effort to iterate. Put something out and then change it based on what happens. Host an event and improve on it the next time. Put up the site and alter it based on feedback. Start the new service and then change it after interacting with users.

Get rid of the idea of always getting it right the first time. Do it the first time and then do it better the second time.