Experimentation is not something that comes naturally to most writers. I like to develop a system and then stick with it, especially if it seems to be working well.
Writing, or the physical nature of it, has not fundamentally changed much in thousands of years. We have ideas in our heads, and the goal is to collect them into a coherent narrative in a way that can be shared with other people. Whether you’re talking about short stories, a memoir, or a podcast episode, the goal remains the same.
The publishing process for an independent publisher would be almost impossible without a strong and proven system. When you are responsible for everything from hiring a cover designer to making sure the proofreader turns the manuscript in on time, you must have a system you can rely on, a process you know will work each and every time.
I have a history in project management. I understand the power of creating a routine, a way of doing things, and sticking with it. And while that can tend to stifle innovation and inspiration, the flip side is that it provides a strong foundation for quality and regular productivity.
When you have a system that is efficient, effective, and working well, it is difficult to experiment. It is hard to justify taking chances on things that seem to be working well, even if the potential upside is enormous. We all fear change. We’re more afraid of losing something we have than we are of not acquiring something we want.
And when I experiment, I am usually the one who has to determine whether or not the experiment is a success. I have my own confirmation bias built into the process, and therefore I will want to see my experiments succeed even if the data says otherwise. I’m less likely to experiment, less likely to take big risks, and less likely to admit the experiment was a failure. If I am not held accountable to another person, it becomes easy for me to convince myself that the outcome I received was the one I had intended.
This is true whether we are talking about experimentation in craft, publishing, or marketing. However, the results of an experiment are most easily measured when it comes to the marketing and advertising side of the business because those results can be tied to something with meaning, such as profit or loss. If I experiment with a certain type of online paid advertising, I should be able to measure the effectiveness of that advertising based on how much money I gained or lost compared to the baseline before the start of the advertising campaign.
But this still requires a certain level of honesty and perspective that I might not have. I might tend to let the ad run longer than it should because I believe the experiment will pay off. This is the similar mindset of a gambler who walks into a casino and loses money at the blackjack table but continues to gamble, thinking he can make that money back if he just stays at the table long enough. I have lost money with this mindset when it comes to paid advertising, which is only one example of how our own experimentation can be biased.
A mastermind group cannot mitigate the risk of experimentation, but it can become a laboratory where others can weigh in on the effectiveness of the experiment. If you can present your data objectively, the mastermind participants can provide their own perspectives in helping you determine whether or not your actions had the desired outcome, even if it’s not the outcome you might have desired. Because the mastermind participants know you but are not related, they can provide insights that might not be possible with people who are closer to you, like fellow writers, loved ones, or friends.
But it isn’t just the risk-taker who can benefit from running experiments in a mastermind group. Everyone can watch and monitor the situation and then take the data acquired from the experiment and apply it to their own craft or business. Everyone is in the laboratory, observing, measuring, and taking notes on what is happening.
Sometimes when I run an experiment, I can lose my will. I can become afraid or tentative, and can often end the experiment before I have conclusive results. Running an experiment with a mastermind group can prevent this from happening because now that experiment is running in front of other people. There is accountability on the person who is running the experiment to see it through and to let the other members learn from the exercise.
Being held accountable to the group can keep our heads in the experiment and make sure that we are not prematurely ending it. That is not to say that someone who is having a negative experience should continue the experiment for the sake of the mastermind group. However, sometimes we lose our nerve, and we quit something just before we go through the Dip (as popularized by Seth Godin), and being accountable to the rest of the mastermind group can help prevent this from happening.
Several members within the mastermind group might want to try the same experiment at the same time, and then compare results at the end. This is a great way to turbocharge your ability to test other people’s systems, such as paid advertising. By examining images used in different ad campaigns, the members of the mastermind group can draw conclusions about why certain ones worked, and others did not, which would be impossible to do on one’s own.
Whether the experiment has to do with craft, publishing, or marketing, a mastermind group can be a safe and supportive place to try things that we couldn’t do on our own. In effect, a mastermind group provides members with a brain trust of partners.
Want to take your writing chops and business savvy to the next level? Check out The Author Success Mastermind group at https://theauthorsuccessmastermind.com/join/