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On The Pursuit of Beta

On The Pursuit of Beta

Mason Smith's picture
Mason Smith
February 22nd, 2013

While perusing LinkedIn Today, we were intrigued by a notion posited by none other than Reid Hoffman, Cofounder and Chairman of LinkedIn. In the executive summary of his presentation “The Start-Up of You”, Hoffman encourages people to adopt a mindset of “permanent beta.” We were both drawn to this concept like moths to a flame, and curiously repelled.

The definition of “permanent beta” is a bit illusive, yet we conceptualized it as a state of continual innovation. We agree that people and organizations benefit from always striving to improve, yet are curious as to whether innovation is most effectively pursued continuously or cyclically.

Like surfing, continuous innovation can be both draining and exhilarating. Paddling out to catch a wave of innovation can exhaust your energy, causing you to question your ability to continue. Yet, the more you attempt to innovate, the more skilled a paddler you become, expending less energy to catch a wave and choosing which waves you pursue more intelligently. The experience of the augmentation of ability and enjoyment resulting from effective innovation can replenish your energy and sustain your ability to continue to innovate.

We consider effective innovation to be analogous to a flow experience, a state achieved when your abilities are completely engaged and are comfortably stretched to facilitate the enhancement of them. Thus, pursuing innovation in a more cyclical pattern may prevent burnout and allow your batteries to recharge. Pausing may also allow you to reflect on your process and adapt it accordingly, increasing your ability to innovate more effectively.

Do you have a mindset of “permanent beta” or do you prefer to pursue innovation cyclically?

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