Thursday, October 22, 2009

Life is in Beta!

I read this phrase recently somewhere and it has stuck. Life is in Beta! The phrase is reflective of what our life has become today—a constant flux of learning and unlearning. Even words and languages are in Beta, liable to change their connotation and denotation and catch you unawares.

Google Chrome is in Beta. Google Wave is in Beta…e-learning courses are in Beta.
So, what does being in Beta signify?

To me, it means to be comfortable with:

1. Ambiguity
2. Fuzzy outlines
3. Lack of closure
4. Incompleteness
5. Criticism and suggestions
6. Continuous improvement
7. Being out “there” in less than ready state
8. Allowing users to define the end outcome
9. Readiness to discard what has been painstakingly created
10. Seeing the larger possibility in the “less than perfect creation” of the present
These are all pretty tough things to accept and require a mind-shift. Most importantly, it means being able to handle ambiguity and imperfect information with élan and see the pattern in the scattered pieces.

It also means being able to see the emerging larger pattern among the ever-shifting micro pieces of information. If we can keep a hold of the larger picture, we can train ourselves to be at ease with the blurry outlines of today.

What triggered this thought?

I was thinking of a past project experience where each phase seemed to be in Beta. I was perpetually waiting for feedback, insight or just that one missing piece that would drive that phase to its finalization.

Ironically, that missing piece usually opened up another door of enquiry and the Beta feeling started all over again.

Then, some hard questions and self-reflection made me see light. I had to move ahead in spite of the missing pieces. I had to move to the next phase and be comfortable with the ambiguity existing in the previous one. I just had to firmly cling on to the end outcome.

I would never, could never get perfect information because there is no “state of perfect information” unless we are only looking at the past and at what is done, closed and sealed. Information in the present would be shifting and churning and we have to move ahead by building in the churn into our plans.

So, be it life or a project plan or software development, we are bound by the nature of today’s existence to be in perennial Beta.

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