The importance of experimentation
Are you thinking about starting a new project, making a book or print edition, or pursuing some other creative product or service? If it’s going to require time and financial investment, be sure to do two things before overcommitting yourself: run the idea past others and conduct an experiment.
In the period after conceiving a new idea, you’ll likely be excitedly and rapidly developing it, ready to dive in and get started. Yet it’s important that this is balanced with testing the viability of the concept – as much as you can in the early days.
What’s a good start? Harness your enthusiasm and start telling the world. Bounce your thoughts off others and attain their input. You’ll enlist early supporters and capture the interest of future clients and partners. During this process, you’ll also finesse how to talk about and fine-tune the concept. Be sure to listen to what others have to say, and don’t hesitate tomove past suggestions that don’t work for you.
I will never forget the moment that the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD) was born. It appeared in my head during a telephone conversation with another gallerist. I ran the concept past her and she was immediately keen. I already had one potential member in the bag! Rather than invest irreplaceable time and money on something that wasn’t going to appeal to others, I made a point over the next few months to float the concept with a whole host of my peers. There was unanimous enthusiasm, so I figured that the basic notion was solid.
I was effectively – and unknowingly at the time, accomplishing that first stage of a new undertaking. By speaking with practically every female art dealer I knew, I was conducting ‘mini-market research’. Thanks to my excitement and hope, this undertaking was enjoyable and beneficial alike.
Next, before taking the risk of investing much more time and money, I conducted some experiments to see how to make the project work in practice. I achieved this by bringing in an intern who wanted an intro into and experience with the London art world. This was an ideal opportunity for her, as she would communicate with gallerists on a daily basis.
I paid her expenses, invested all of £40 on the website domain and hosting, and asked visitors to the first few meetings to contribute towards refreshments. Without spending much money and only committing a bit of my own time, we worked out that the network had a market that was willing to pay and decided to proceed. After doing some summer business planning, we welcomed Founding Members in several months, who put their money where their mouth was and paid for the first year’s subscription.
As for your current and future ideas for projects and enterprises? Think about how you can conduct mini-market research and do experiments without overcommitting yourself or getting in too deep. You’ll still have the time and opportunity to make essential changes, and even walk away if necessary. This can be both enjoyable and enlightening.