Dan Romanow
5 Steps to Adopting a Mindset of Experimentation
Dan Romanow
November 14, 2017

5 Steps to Adopting a Mindset of Experimentation

Experimentation isn’t new. Since the 17th-century scientists have been utilizing experimentation to demystify why things are the way they are while capturing insights gained along the way. Given its place in the minds of our brightest inventors and innovators, one could assume that experimentation is a critical step to any successful organization’s product development practice. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

While there are a handful of big names who have fully embraced the “experiment with everything” protocal (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook), for others embracing a culture of experimentation at the enterprise level is risky. An upfront investment is required to develop the infrastructure for experimentation; training is required to find meaning in the nearly 90% failure rate — which can prove to be both an emotional and political landmine; and patience, trust and intuition takes months if not years to ferment as teams learn to sift through quantitatively positive results to uncover truly innovative ideas.

Fortunately for organizations, and moreover for their customers, the tide is turning. The barriers to entry continue to diminish while the benefits of adopting an experimental mindset flourish. Removing the stigma of failure has led to greater product enhancements and more confident and productive teams. And that relatively small upfront investment in skills, software and systems actually delivers a huge return in the form of continuous insights, speed of iteration and inexpensive experimentation at scale. These companies have joined the growing majority who believe that experimentation is central to evolving their product, service, brand — even business model.

At PointSource, not only do we leverage experimentation for our in-house products and systems, we feel the power of experimentation should be embraced by our clients as well.

An HBR study concludes, “Understanding enlightened experimentation requires an appreciation of the process of innovation.” To that end, we tailor our process and client partnerships to enable the collaborative design and facilitation of our experiments. Here are the steps we take to start building our client’s appreciation for the journey:

  1. Frame the Opportunity: In a collaborative session, we lead structured activities to understand the client’s current landscape, their perceived challenges and manifestations of those challenges for stakeholders on a day-to-day basis. Distilling and simplifying their greatest obstacles into a shared hypotheses helps clarify the intention and purpose of our efforts.
  2. Define the Expected Outcomes: Outcomes goes beyond just KPIs; they’re tangible benefits of a solution that can be felt by both the organization and the customer. To truly understand the value of an experiment, we need to identify the gap between our expected outcome and the actual result.
  3. Validate our Thinking: Together with our clients, we design a lean research approach to better understand our customer’s perspective on the given challenge, their pain points and current behaviors, and the most important shifts we need to make in each. In this step of the process, our clients help craft the scripts, recruitment parameters, surveys and slowly become co-leads on the customer interviews themselves.
  4. Design a Solution: Leveraging insights gained and distilled through research, we lead our clients through co-design sessions — or CoDe’s as well call them. Pencils in hand, everyone at the table has a say in shaping an idea into a concept, visualizing a concept into a sketch, and transforming a sketch into a testable prototype.
  5. Test, Iterate, Repeat: The most insightful moment in an experiment is being able to observe customers as they interact with the artifact, sometimes stumbling, hopefully succeeding, as anticipation builds and the experiment succeeds or fails. This is where removing the stigma of failure comes into play: if we learn from our failures (hopefully quickly) we’re able to evolve our thinking and iterate on our solution. If we don’t learn anything, our failure, unfortunately, turns into an avoidable mistake.

At the end of this process not only have our clients launched a successful MVP but they’ve gained the knowledge and practice to enable continued experimentation on the solution. Being able to empower our clients as they shift their own way of thinking, as they evolve the processes of their department, even as they impact the acceptance of experimentation across their organization, is the greatest outcome any of us can hope for.

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