Before last year’s TED conference, I made a visit to Disney’s “Imagineering” Facility. They call it “Imagineering” because the facility seeks to merge imagination and the engineering prowess required to make bold ideas happen. Given my fascination with the process of Making Ideas Happen, I was a captive audience and toured the facility with great attention to detail.
As you would expect from anything Disney, there were many surprises and moments of awe throughout the experience. I learned that all theme park rides are first constructed as meticulous models, allowing the “Imagineers” to observe the view from every perspective of the ride and experience the changes they are making throughout the process. Every single element, from the tiny trees and the grain of the pavement to the sculptured rocky ledges, emerges from a purposeful decision.
The most impressive stop along the tour was their new virtual reality room. Huge, 10-foot-high screens line the walls. My host for the day explained that the room was created to allow people to “ride the ride” prior to development. As the “Imagineers” are applying the final touches to certain aspects of the rides, they use the room to experience their creation in true virtual reality.
The room simulates every aspect of the experience: what you see while waiting in line, the speed of the passing scenery, and the perspective of the rider from all angles, among other elements. The key, they explained, was the ability to rapidly develop, test, experience and then iterate the changes they were making.
This tendency to create something, experience it in real-time (or as close as you can get), and then rapidly iterate is a competitive advantage in the 21st century of small business. New technology enables us to quickly build prototype products, test things online with small audiences, and then quickly harness the lessons and try again.
Rather than agonize over getting it right the first time, we need to get it right just enough to test. Of course, we also need a system that enables us to experience our creations throughout development.
The famed engineers at Google are legendary for their process of “A/B testing.” With the desire to constantly test the performance of small changes in search – Gmail, Adwords, and other Google products – the team is constantly putting up multiple versions of designs of user experiences. It could be just the size of a button or the marketing copy on a page that changes for a small subset of users who are unknowingly participating in an experiment. By comparing version A (the existing version) with version B (the new one that is being tested), the folks at Google are able to get real insight into the performance of their innovations before they are launched broadly. Version A is only replaced when version B outperforms it.
What is your equivalent of Disney’s “ride the ride” room or Google's “A/B testing?” Do you have a process in your own business that allows you to test changes or innovations by “experiencing” them?
There is no better bet on something new than the one you've already tested and experienced for yourself.
This article is based on research by Behance CEO Scott Belsky, whose new book, Making Ideas Happen, is a Wall Street Journal bestseller. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think tank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.