In the whirl of the organisation, learning can be really hard. I've watched many of our clients burrowing away into their projects, sprints, and product drives - careening along at a breakneck pace, with everyone seemingly driven and stressed to the hilt.
Organisations can't work like this in the long term. Eventually the cost of this style of work catches up with them. Culture turns into something resembling gangs of thugs on the streets, with everyone in their own cliques and struggling to survive. HR hates finance, the product team is pissed because sales keeps promising things they can't deliver. Frustration and anger and bullying are the norm (albeit often swept under the carpet), in-fighting between departments rise, retention rates drop, and inefficiencies climb higher and higher.
For an organisation to develop or improve, one of the first strategies we employ is to begin creating spaces which enable small windows of "slow", and scripts which allow more reflective learning to begin forward movement.
One learning script which our clients seem to gravitate to early is experimentation. As change practitioners, we begin to introduce this language as a way to unpick their established ways of working. We can say things like:
Well, I'm not convinced of that - have you ever checked?
Does Option A work, or does Option B?
Do you have any data on that, because in this organisation I saw (insert inflammatory counter-argument here)...?
A shift towards experimentation as a way of learning, and as a contributor to decision-making, has many benefits, from cultural through to strategic.
If you're thinking about getting started in a shift towards experimentation, you can check out our following curated resource guide for some really practical "how to" information:
Resource 1, book: Maria Konnikova, The Biggest Bluff
This is a book about poker, but it's a super-fun read about Maria's (now) obsession of poker. It will help you with the background thinking necessary in experimentation - things like probability, causality, and many of the human factors at play in your organisation. For example, in a recent Freakonomics podcast Maria gave the perfect explanation for why learning poker is a great microcosm (read: small experimental/learning setting) for life:
"We don't learn well in life because it's a noisy environment, because you can't figure out what's going on, because there are too many variables - it's too uncontrollable. What poker does is removes some of that noise... in a way that actually allows you to access your thought process on a much deeper level. And then you can go to that noisy arena and deal with it better."
I would argue this also applies in your organisation (indeed, we often undertake factor analysis to look at how much control your team or organisation has over success variables).
Resource 2, book: Stefan Thomke, Experimentation Works: The Surprising Power of Business Experiments
This is almost the ultimate guide to experimentation. It is packed full of case studies, includes models and platforms to support experimentation, and pays attention to the culture, context and systems of the organisation in which the experimentation is to be embedded (which makes it good, in my opinion). It also includes some essential basics specific to an experimentation approach, such as hypothesis testing, probability and significance.
Resource 3, platform/website: Optimizely
Optimizely is a platform which supports organisational adoption of experimentation. They're not the only one, but they're probably the best product platform customised uniquely to this function. They have some more great resources attached to their site, including a sample size calculator, an e-book (who doesn't have one now-a-days), they run a summit and so on.
So there you have it - three top resources for you to get the taste for experimentation, and the inspiration to try it in your organisation. And of course, if you have any questions or need some help discussing this with your team or leaders, or help experimenting, we'd love to help.