Trials only need to last as long as you’re learning…but sometimes they may need to be kept in place for longer. We’re calling this Beta Fair Time.Please use the hashtag #BetaFairTime on social media to help everyone follow the conversation.
Trials should only be as long as necessary
If you wanted to compare onstreet recycling-bin designs, a trial period of just one day might be plenty. After 1 day the bin would be full and you could sift through the waste and see how much of it was of the correct type for the bin. In theory on day 2, you could try out a slightly different bin design and see whether it fared any better. And so on.
So your learning pace might be as fast as daily. If you leave that bin there for a full month, the further 29 days probably didn’t contribute anything to your learning and so could be viewed as ‘waste’, simply slowing down the process of learning.
So says the Lean Startup, but it was developed for business start-ups, particularly with an emphasis on digital products. The requirements when dealing with cities and local government, physical situations rather than virtual/coded ones, and most importantly when factoring in the exceptionally valuable co-creation of citizens, can often be much messier and complex.
How long should a Beta Project be in place?
We began thinking about this during the traffic light box artworks Beta Project. The main assumptions that this was testing was whether…
- It would reduce a City Council maintenance requirement.
- People would be interested in painting a box for expenses-only, and that they would expect their piece to be there for at least 12 months. (This assumption was based on a conversation with others before this Beta Project took place.)
After 6 months we knew that both these assumptions seemed to be correct, so in theory that could have (should have) marked the end of the trial allowing us to remove the trial, then move onto the Report Card step, and then subsequently push on to develop a policy to reflect what had been learnt.
However the 12 participants had taken part on the understanding that their artwork would be there for at least 12 months if at all possible. So the artworks needed to be kept in place for at least 12 months, even though they weren’t really trialling anything at that point.
- So the first 6 months could have been considered ‘Beta Trial Time’
- The second 6 months could have been considered ‘Beta Fair Time’.
It might be useful to clarify these on future Beta Projects…we’ll try them out to see whether it turns out to be the case.
Questions or Suggestions?
- Do you have any questions or suggestions on this?
- Would you suggest different phrases?
- Please let us know below if the above makes you think of an idea that you spotted somewhere else!