The Process of Betterment

My design company, digital-telepathy, has fortunately seen significant growth in the last year. We’ve increased revenue by nearly 300%, doubled our staff and expanded to a great new headquarters. I can attribute this recent success to running the entire organization according to a core philosophy of Betterment - our concept of generating incremental improvement to create exponential results. Everything that we do, from design to HR, is infused with Betterment.

So what is it? Simply put, Betterment is a philosophy of constantly improving. Whether ourselves, our design or our operations, there is always something we can make better. It’s not a business system, it’s a way of being. Embracing the notion that there is always room for improvement gives us freedom to innovate and push our limits. When improvement is the standard, momentum is only one of many positive results.

To make Betterment more tangible, we created a formula to represent it:

Betterment = Simple + Compelling - Friction.

When an experience is free of friction while being simple and compelling, it creates a visceral, satisfying result. We apply this formula to our design, the office or even our personal lives. It’s similar to the practice of continuous deployment for products and works toward the same goal. However, Betterment is not constrained by formal reviews or milestones. Like the formula that represents it, Betterment is a simpler and richer way of directing our energy.

Since we are a user experience design company, it’s easy to articulate how Betterment influences our work. It begins with a core belief of ours: design is never done - it can always be better. There are always more opportunities to iterate, test, learn and improve. We approach each project with a set of objectives that we work towards (we call this process “Objective Based Design” but that’s a topic for another post). Betterment allows us to constantly reassess and iterate on our design based on the learning we get through the creative process and via user feedback (both analytical and qualitative). With the Betterment formula in mind, we strive to create simple, compelling designs that are intuitive and eliminate friction from the user experience.

Its easy to see how Betterment relates to design, but we find it equally effective at the office and in our lives. Across the company we are committed to Betterment and it infuses everything we do in our client relationships and office culture. If you use agile, or continuous deployment methodology for your products, imagine what it would do if you turned that constant iterative approach inward and worked on culture in the same way.

A great example of how Betterment affects all elements of our organization is in our annual bonus program. Every year we give bonuses. But with those bonuses comes an expectation that the recipient will use the extra cash to create an experience and push themselves to try something new; in essence better themselves in any way they wish. We’ve had team members use the money to learn a new skill - like playing the piano or violin, or try something they’ve always dreamed of doing like surfing in Hawaii or cycling in Majorca. These bonuses have created new outlets for people to pursue their passions, and result in a true belief in the power of Betterment. It’s a fun way of demonstrating to ourselves how seriously we take this philosophy.

With Betterment as our guidepost, we constantly see results in improved employee happiness, product improvement, and institutional learning. Even the smallest improvement has the power to drive huge gains. As the saying goes, “Better is better than best.” By bringing this way of thinking into our workplace, we’ve started a snowball effect that continues to grow and helps us and our organization continually improve.


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