So, what is a stress test team and why do you need one?
The purpose of a stress test team is to make sure the work you’re putting out, whether it’s music, videos, or other content can handle the pressure of a negative response. The true test lies in whether you can continue to believe in it, stand by it, and remain proud of it no matter how tough the criticism is.
Stress testing is common in finance and in journalism, and is sometimes referred to as a red team. Usually, the team will unite together with the purpose of challenging your work. This is not your typical roundtable opportunity for general feedback. Instead, they try to find faults, cracks, and apply pressure to see if the content or you, yourself, will fall apart.
The ultimate goal of most stress test teams or red teams is to enhance decision making. This can be done by specifying the adversary’s preferences and strategies or by simply acting as a devil’s advocate.
In the case of art and music, there isn’t so much a clear right or wrong opinion, as there can be with making a bad investment or pouring money in a poorly planned project. For an artist, a stress test team is needed for different reasons.
The first reason is to ensure that you are effectively prioritizing your efforts.
For instance, let’s say you’re super excited about a new project, whether it’s a video or an album, and you want to spend time and money on it. In your heart, you might want to adopt the most popular, trending sound or style, thinking it’s a ticket to stardom and the key to quick fame and success.
A stress test team would examine and push hard on every single reason why this may NOT be a good idea.
For example, a new project that strays away from the your original sound might alienate your core fan base. Your new style might fit into today’s wave, but the project may not play to your original strengths, and it might departure too far away from the brand and image that you’ve spent so much time cultivating. Trends are often short-lived, so they sometimes may not be worth sinking lots of time and money into. At the end of the day, there’s a chance you may not be as passionate about it as you think, which will show in the work produced.
Having a team to poke holes in your logic, play devil’s advocate, and highlight potential consequences can help determine whether it’s where you should put your effort. Also, it doesn’t mean you have to drop the concept or plan completely. A stress test team could also potentially discover ways for you to incorporate aspects of a trend into your current style for longevity of your brand, rather than temporarily riding a wave.
Quality of a Project
The second reason is to ensure that your project and release strategy is at the highest quality.
A great stress test team should hammer at your project with a hyper-critical eye. They’ll point out fixable flaws, giving you the opportunity to polish the project towards perfection.
The best stress test teams will hold nothing back and, to the best of their abilities, objectively criticize your work with the most negative feedback and opinions. Similar to the fans, critics and haters that you’ll inevitably experience once you put your art out into the world.
If you continue to proudly love and stand strong by your art, even after facing all the hard grilling from your team, then you know it’s something you truly want to release.
Choosing Your Stress Team
So what makes a good stress test team?
First, it shouldn’t consist of people who are caught up in the same enthusiasm as you.
They could be outsiders who don’t have a stake or vested interest in what you’re building, which is helpful because they’ll be objective. Or you might bring in friends or family who may have already advised against your decision before you even worked on it. Test out your patience and persistence against them now that you’ve actually done it. If you choose your friends, make sure they’re the ones who are always critical and really skeptical about everything in general.
Second, they should be people whose opinion you really trust. How seriously will you take the critique if you can just sidestep it by saying, “I don’t trust them, they don’t know anything.”
Third, if possible, use people with experience in your field. Depending on what you’re testing, it can be beneficial to get people with background and knowledge on that specific subject as they can give an informed perspective and use their experience, especially for business ventures and content development and production. A caveat to consider is if you’re testing something like a song, it can also be helpful to use casual listeners, kids, strangers, or any variety of sources to collect raw, honest feedback. They will usually judge it on emotion, immediate impact, or catchiness, rather than technical judgement.
Also, it’s beneficial to use the same people in your red team every time you’re looking for critical feedback. If you build a consistent team, the more they do the exercise, the better they’ll get, which will improve the process.
Finally, pick people who know when to stop and when to continue testing you. As helpful as it is to give tough and challenging feedback, there is a fine line. Going overboard with the criticism can kill your motivation and confidence; however, if they don’t push you far enough, then weaknesses might be overlooked and you and your art won’t fully evolve towards excellence.
This isn’t a perfect process, but it is one that can be very beneficial to refining and polishing a project or determining whether or not to pursue an intense project, campaign, or tour. Almost every idea, concept, design, or plan benefits from healthy opposition and testing.
In both art and business, quality and timing are important, so figure out how to use a stress test team, determine who should be on it, and decide when to use them effectively.
As an artist, it’s normal to avoid pessimistic people to protect your heart, dreams and ego. Especially when you’re creating something that might be very personal and private. However, if you want to put out the most successful project, you need to prove to yourself and others that you can stand strong against those views and not blow in the wind because of a little negative feedback.
If you’d like to dig further into how to thoroughly set up a stress team and the types of questions they should ask to challenge you, we encourage you to check out the following resources:
Three Situations That Call for a Red Team By Lisa Earle McLeod
New to Red Teaming? Start Here...