Applying growth design and prototyping to yourself

Issue 66: How tiny experiments can guide you in your career

A few days ago I had the pleasure of speaking with the Design To Be cohort about the concept of a career odyssey—something I’ll write in the future. One of the key aspects I mentioned in the talk about navigating your career is experimenting with what you want to do. You don’t need hard pivots in your career and can build career capital now based on your interests and curiosities. A question I am constantly asking myself is, “How can I bring my future to my present sooner?” Tiny experiments help you grow and build the future instead of one day starting with a blank canvas. In this issue, we’ll cover two different techniques to experiment: growth design and prototyping/experimentation.

Human-centered design always starts with observing. In order to run an experiment, you need to analyze the problem and opportunity. I use curiosity as a signal for my personal growth. Whether it’s a skill, subject matter, or profession, I use curiosity as the metric I value the most. Based on my curiosity, I ideate on potential things I might want to experience in my life.

Based on what piques my curiosity, I create experiments to further learn if there is a sincere interest in it. There are many moments in my life where I have aspirations that actually don’t turn out to be important to me. Experiments help validate this.

Technique 1: growth design

Growth design is a process at the intersection of Growth (a scientific method to improve business metrics) and Design (a human-centered process used to solve problems). It involves crafting meaningful experiences at scale so that an organization can exceed its business goals while delighting its customers.

Running growth design experiments are a great way to improve your personal or professional life. I wrote in one of the earliest issues of this newsletter how I applied experimentation to get my Type 2 Diabetes under control. You can do this in your professional life on projects you're passionate about too. The four steps of growth design are: Ideate, Prioritize, Test, and Analyze.

Example: growth experiments for this newsletter

The premise of this newsletter is about experimentation and my ultimate playground. I don't have metrics at scale but can run experiments weekly as I get feedback from awesome readers like you. I get basic metrics from Substack which gives me insights to play around with different types of content. One of the types of issues I plan on publishing soon is interviews with like-minded creators for Proof of Concept. Here’s what this potential experiment would look like.

Experiment name: Creator interviews

Hypothesis: Creators share content they are featured on with their networks,

Success criteria: 50% more signups in the issue than any newsletter issue (written by me) in the last 30 days.

Experiment length: 1 week
In real growth design experiments, you'd run experiments longer when you build them but for the purpose of this, I want to just try one to see how it goes.

Technique 2: prototyping/experimentation

Though derived from insights and hypothesis-driven, prototyping and experimentation may not be as directly tied to data the same way growth design is. Prototyping is the area I have the deepest knowledge in my design career and I typically used it to develop a proof of concept to validate an idea. This method is ripe for career experimentation.

Example: prototyping a career opportunity

I've been pretty obsessed with diversifying career opportunities in the past few years. It's not because I'm seeking a new change. I love what I'm doing now. However, when the time comes I desire a change, I don't want to start with a blank canvas and have career capital built in it.

Experiment name: Learning about startup investing

Hypothesis: Venture capital is something I might want to get into in a future phase of my life.

Learning objectives

  • If I would actually add value as an investor

  • Understand what gives me positive or negative energy in early-stage investing

  • Determine if it's a pathway worth exploring

Experiments: Review 20 startup pitch decks and provide feedback for the founders. Capture notes on reasons why you passed or invested to identify if there are trends in your investment thesis. Journal and highlight what aspects of investing is appealing to you.

What I learned:

  • A bit part of startup investing is administrative work, finance, and a lot of work if you have a fund (I don’t want to do this right now)

  • Being an angel investor on a small scale has been enjoyable (operator angel to help)

  • The seed stage is enjoyable as many founders are still in early product development

From this experimentation, I learned I actually not interested in institutional venture capital.

Analyze, learn, and decide

Experimentation is about continuous learning, and failure is the greatest way to learn. As scientist Linus Pauling once said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” After these experiments, you'll get insights into whether there are aspects you want to keep doing and learning in your life. Observe it, try it, learn from it, and decide.

Experiments make things lean, approachable, and invoke action. Write different aspects in your life you'd like to experiment with and queue up a backlog of micro-projects. I'm a firm believer that you don't have to finish your side projects. In fact, the pressure to ship every side project defeats the purpose of having side projects. That said, you might learn from one of the experiments that open up a new path.

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