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A Framework For Continuous Improvement

There is a silver bullet that you could use to improve everything that you do. It is cost-efficient and effective.

Companies large and small use the strategy to innovate, find product-market fit, grow their users, and so on.

The most interesting part is that it is nothing grand. It does not require a grand strategist or a mega-budget.

A bit of courage and willingness to walk uncharted paths are enough.

In growth hack language it is called high tempo testing. In simple, you can call it trying things out.

Sebastian Groh, founder and Managing Director of SOLShare, a solar energy startup based in Dhaka, suggests that “trying things out, be honest when they fail, and trying it in another way” is the most useful lesson he has learned in his entrepreneurial journey so far.

“You don’t know unless you try,” Sebastian tells Future Startup in an interview. “We (SOLShare) made so many mistakes and keep going. I think nobody has figured it all out, and if you are too realistic and want to control everything you will eventually come to the conclusion that the impossible is indeed impossible and you will end up giving up.”

At Future Startup, we have also learned the value of trying things out over the past years. We started a branded content marketing service in early 2017. Initially, it was a product we had a hard time communicating with our clients. But we kept on iterating.

Today, almost 80% of our revenue comes from branded content. That being said, we are not done with it. We keep on changing it, iterating it and it has proven to be a useful strategy that delivers results.

This could be an important operating principle for any organization - keep trying new things, a new way of doing things, a better approach. As long as you try things and test new ideas, there will be no stagnation.

Iteration is an important word in the world of startups. You build a minimum viable product. You go to your small set of target customers. Gather feedback. Iterate based on that feedback. You keep doing this until you’ve found product-market fit.

In growth hack, the same strategy. Growth hacking, at its core, is nothing but rapid testing of growth ideas and scaling the ones that work. In order to find the best one, you need to churn out tonnes of ideas. The most important thing is to keep on trying until you find something that works.

Most things in life and work are random. This is what Nasim Nicolas Tabel explains in his book Fooled by Randomness. The interesting part is when the game is random, you don’t have a formula. The only formula that works is trying different things. The more items you try, it increases your chances of finding something useful.

So, the first takeaway is that trying things out, having a mentality to experiment and learn and keep that cycle going.

The next stage is about developing a system that would allow you to keep on trying and testing ideas. While it seems like a stupidly simple idea, you simply try things out and keep trying, but in reality, it is super hard.

That’s why most companies and most of us fail to do that. Here is an outline that you could use to develop an organization-wide system to build a culture of testing and trying. Part of this model is borrowed from the high-tempo testing model.

  • Integration: Make trying things and testing an integrated part of your culture, planning, and execution. That should be the standard operating procedure.
  • Build a system to generate ideas: In order to try things out, you need ideas. Develop a system to generate ideas within the company. Be non-judgemental about ideas. Encourage everyone to contribute. While encouraging everyone, make a few people responsible for it. This should be a weekly thing.
  • Pick the ones you want to try: Once you have a host of ideas, pick the most urgent and important ones and try them. This should be a weekly thing.
  • Build a process to ensure consistent testing: Once you have a set of ideas you want to try, the next stage is testing those ideas. It is often a difficult step and tough to manage consistently. To maintain consistency, you have to build a team and process. A weekly meeting for managing is a useful practice.
  • Create a learning loop: Monitor the result of every test, identify lessons, and incorporate them into the idea generation process and prioritization process.
  • Repeat: Integrate the lessons you have learned and use them in generating ideas for the future and better manage the entire process.

Originally published on 25 July 2019. Updated on 20 September 2023.

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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