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The Running Test

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John Sindelar

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Testing code is one thing, but how do we test our ideas. (I’m not talking about validating ideas with customers as in Lean Startup, but testing an idea against your gut. Is there a way to measure that?)

When you’re small, opportunity costs are huge–your best customer is another customer you didn’t meet–so how do you know at a real gut level if you’re making a decision for the right reasons or if you’re reacting to fear? How you do test if you’re aligned with your idea?

runtestlg2The Running Test is one way to get information about decisions, and I’ve found its results surprising. When I’m mulling something over, I’ll find it has one of two impacts on my run. I’m not a brand new runner, but it’s not second nature either; each run has a good amount of talking to myself about slowing down or walking this part of the trail. But sometimes I move through those parts of the trail much more easily–if the idea I’m mulling over is a good one, I find it gives the run energy. I see the idea expanding and suggesting new ones. My run times are actually faster: sometimes a lot faster.

The opposite experience is pretty hard to miss also: there is more negative self-talk than usual on the run and I find myself rehearsing negative outcomes or confrontations. Run times are slower and I am walking up those hills. 

The first time this surprised me I was preparing my talk for DevCon and figured I should chastise myself just a little for agreeing to speak at the conference at all: it wasn’t strictly on mission and would take a lot of time I should be devoting to getting our new calendar wrapped up. Instead I found myself sketching segments of the talk on my run and really enjoying how the talk came together. I was running a bit faster than normal and not worrying about the hills or tough sections of the trail: there was no background worry for that trail-worry to attach itself to.

I was going to enjoy working on this talk and that was somehow not clear to me before the Running Test. It was also on mission as I now saw the talk connected to all the things we were doing in our new calendar. Maybe the run wasn’t so much a test as a creativity-lab, a place to spin up better versions of the idea. But while new ideas certainly come on runs,  the Running Test feels more like a gut check.

Good ideas let me run faster. Strangely, it’s sometimes that simple.

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