Why experimentation must be the ethos of your company — —

Like many companies at the start of the pandemic, we knew that if we wanted to survive, we couldn’t wait for the lockdowns to end. We had to think differently and make experimentation the ethos of our company.

In the past, we considered trying new things as another “goal” to add to the list. But we couldn’t hang on to perfection as revenue declined. So we decided to experiment and launch short digital workshops instead of our traditional offerings. To our delight, they were well received and we began to try more untested ideas and move forward at lightning speed.

It was not our goal to be agile. It was just a lucky accident. The same thing happened to companies in other industries, too. Today, their companies’ responses to the pandemic have become mainstream. (Think contactless payments, telehealth, and other advances.)

Moving forward, experimentation must become the ethos of your company. While we might have stumbled on agility, we now see that the landscape requires rapid iteration. Today’s obstacles, such as the Great Resignation and the supply chain crisis, cannot be overcome without experimentation.

As a leader, you can boost your company by applying these three strategies.

1. Understand the distinctions between failure and experimentation

As humans, we don’t want to fail. We take fewer risks and avoid experimenting with unproven concepts. But experimentation is the key to long-term success. For example, click and collect purchases were initially considered too risky. During the pandemic, however, it was a lifesaver for businesses that might not have survived months of social distancing and lockdowns.

While the cost of absolute failure can be high, the cost of experimentation is usually low. After all, experimentation is the process of trying new ideas, methods, or activities. Failure is expected and monitored, and each “failed” experiment leads to new learning. So when you apply experimentation, you reduce the impact and cost of outright failure.

Try asking yourself, “What if this succeeds?” and “What’s the impact if it doesn’t?” This helps to gain perspective and see limited risk. If you’ve hired great people, you can rest easy knowing your employees will think well.

But what if your team is nervous about experimentation? Recognize and celebrate when something isn’t working. Take the pressure off and remind people that it’s okay to make mistakes. The insights gained from failed experiments are still valuable, so encourage your team to use what they’ve learned to make adjustments.

2. Focus on the development of minimally viable products

Your first experiment doesn’t have to be groundbreaking or successful. All you need is a minimum viable product, a prototype with enough features and potential to attract customers. Find out what’s good enough to test, then build it.

Just don’t confuse MVP with minimal effort. MVPs still contain the basics needed to solve a problem or address an opportunity. Think of it this way: Is your prototype small in scale and able to solve a problem simply, quickly and effectively? You probably have an MVP.

For example, we recently created an MVP by designing a forum for HR leaders about the Great Resignation. We had the content that addressed the topic, but we didn’t want to use the same old, tired webinar format. Instead, our team tried a more interactive approach. The risk was low: even if no one signed up, we’d still be fine. But our experiment paid off and we had a great turnout.

With an MVP, you’re not going out unprepared, you’re testing what might work and giving it your best shot. That’s what Toyota did with its online vehicle stock locator during the height of the pandemic.

Toyota’s director of customer experience and network quality says the global automaker needed a quick way to virtually connect dealers with car buyers who couldn’t browse in person. Instead of spending several months developing a complete solution, Toyota presented its portal in three weeks, a wonderful example of an MVP. Speed ​​was necessary to ensure that sales were not lost during the crisis.

3. Identify the problem and dive in head first

Many companies were forced to experiment when Covid-19 hit and survived. Learn from this experience and be proactive with experimentation. The world isn’t going away, so neither should you.

You may be experiencing recruitment and retention issues related to the Great Resignation. Maybe your culture needs work after switching to a remote workplace. Name your biggest headache and then brainstorm. No approach is too crazy to consider. Start small and take it one step at a time.

Will you be tempted to play devil’s advocate? You should. We have a natural tendency to focus on why something can’t or shouldn’t be done. It’s part of the human condition to stop before we start. We don’t want the stress of feeling like we’ve fallen short because it can affect us in other areas. Caroline Beaton, a speaker and freelance writer, calls this “the loser effect.”

To combat this, remember Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan. It’s important to start somewhere, even if you’re not sure how the experiment will end. Cisco tested this with its one-day “breakathon” event to identify the most important HR and employee interactions. Some ideas failed, but others led to a renewed onboarding process.

Experimentation is a process that can test changes in your organization. All it takes is a small idea to get started.

Contributed to EO by Gloria St. Martin-Lowry, Chair of the HPWP Group, which promotes leadership and organizational development through positivity, coaching and problem solving. HPWP aims to create high-performance workplaces by partnering with courageous leaders who value the contributions of team members.

For more information and inspiration from today’s top entrepreneurs, check out EO at Inc. and more articles from the EO blog.

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