Channeling Innovation in the Workplace / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

A culture of experimentation unleashes your company's true potential. Even if it yields no real results, workers will be very engaged.

In the corporate world, culture is now at the core of every business model and a major variable in operational methods. From startups to large corporations, a successful workplace culture demonstrates increased productivity, happiness, and innovation. While productivity and happiness are vital ingredients in every company’s success, long-term growth relies on innovation (ideation, evaluation, selection, development and implementation).

Simply iterating these five steps doesn’t necessarily translate into success for a business, and even the most cohesive and collaborative workplaces fail to tap into their innovative potential. What most executives fail to see is that when a company’s innovative success stagnates, the ceiling they are approaching is made of glass.

A culture of experimentation in the workplace is what allows companies to break through the glass ceiling and continue to successfully innovate. Culture is something that trickles down from the top of a company, where executive members establish their brand’s core purpose, beliefs, and values. When experimentation is the focal point of a company’s culture, innovation isn’t limited by workplace hierarchy.

In the midst of this technological renaissance, the landscape of today’s enterprise is changing fast and often. When it comes to innovation, success and survival are almost synonymous. The days of traditional business models, processes and bureaucracy are over, and any savvy business leader will follow the numbers. A culture of experimentation is one that champions value over merit.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

BSC, which stands for balanced scorecard, provides a strategy management based method for companies to measure their innovative capacity. By identifying a company’s strategic objectives for innovation, executives can manage their degree of culture experimentation by cross-referencing the proportionate ROI (Return on Investment) of each innovation. By structuring a culture that doesn’t limit the process of innovation to a small range of decisions and routine actions, a company can experiment with different methods to address different strategic objectives. Luckily, it’s not as hard to do as it sounds.

Here are three essentials to establishing a culture of experimentation:

Include everyone

Inclusion is something I discuss almost exclusively in how collaboration in the workplace can utilize diversity. Along the same lines, to establish a culture of experimentation, everyone in the workplace should be treated like an entrepreneur. By allocating an average of 10 percent of weekly work hours to “unstructured time,” companies who have adopted this type of culture expand their opportunities to innovate and grow by encouraging employees to include their passions, draw creative ideas and discover opportunities seen through their perspective. The same pursuit is possible in larger corporations as well, where lower-level employees are called intrapreneurs.

Celebrate failure

No one enjoys failure. When the experimentations begin, the culture portal opens up opportunities for employees to put their neck out. It’s very important to hammer down the notion that the contention and implementation of an employee’s idea depends how its ROI ranks amongst other innovations that apply to a specific strategic objective. Whether an idea ranks second or last in ROI calculations, the company expands its innovative capacity from the personal knowledge and experiences of each employee. In a 2011 interview with the Harvard Business Review, John Donahoe, CEO of eBay,  attributed the e-commerce giant’s similar acknowledgment of failure as part of its development of a culture of experimentation.

Keep it simple 

Experimenting means testing. Keeping the costs low and the methods of testing simple, business leaders circumvent a majority of the effort and potential difficulties that may arise in the adoption of a culture of experimentation. It’s easier to collect and analyze the quantitative and qualitative data from simple and relatively uncostly experiments.

How a culture of experimentation brings success

It may seem counterintuitive, but a culture of experimentation in the workplace is a growth hack for employee engagement. Giving each member of a company the legitimate opportunity to contribute to strategic decisions and operations goes a long way in engaging the workforce, which has a strong correlation to outperforming competitors. Furthermore, experiments provide much more data and information on what a company should avoid doing, which sharpens future business decisions and operational methods.

With the right structure and management, there is very little downside to establishing a culture of experimentation. If everyone shares the realization of the greater good for their company and its stakeholders, it can’t hurt to try.


Photo credit: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

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