Why is experimentation important
Discovery of new opportunities
A willingness to experiment within an organization is first important because it can help identify new opportunities. If everything is fixed within organizations, and employees are unwilling to explore new possibilities, then opportunities for improvements are missed.
Experimentation can help develop and refine new products or identify new customers. A willingness to take small-scale experiments to explore a new opportunity is an important first step in taking advantage of these possibilities.
Experiments can also help verify assumptions. If you believe that the market will behave in a particular way, an experiment can help ascertain if your assumptions are correct. Going out, asking customers, or allowing potential customers to engage with your product as part of a focus group can help ascertain whether your assumptions are correct before taking more costly steps to capitalize on the opportunity.
Having an experimentation mindset means more than just exploring new possibilities, it also involves taking steps through experiments to ascertain if what you think will be true is actually true.
Experiments are also important to help reduce uncertainty. Uncertainty can cause resistance to stakeholders adopting a new technology – investors may be unwilling to finance it, supplies may be unwilling to make investments, and other organizations that you rely on for complimentary services may be unwilling to commit to an unproven technology.
Experimentation can help reduce this uncertainty – helping to illustrate to stakeholders that the possibility that you are proposing is actually valid. The experiments help address concerns that the various organizational stakeholders have, allowing them to make necessary commitments.
How to build a company mindset that encourages experimentation
Explain why it is important
One approach for fostering an experimentation mindset involves encouraging experimentation. Making employees aware that it is desirable to verify their assumptions and conduct mini-experiments. Without emphasizing the importance to employees, they may be reluctant to independently conduct experiments.
Another component of encouraging an experimentation mindset is to reward experimentation. To actively praise employees for taking steps to reduce uncertainties, verify assumptions, or explore new market opportunities.
Emphasize the learnings - including from 'failed' experiments
Another approach for fostering an experimentation mindset is to emphasize the learnings from experimentation – including ‘failed’ experiments. Indeed you may learn more from failed experiments than ones that verified what you were hoping for. Failed experiments can be key to help you fail quickly, without continued escalating commitments to a pat that ultimately is unlikely to bring rewards.