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Three Ways to Create a Culture of Experimentation

Business.com / Last Modified: January 8, 2018
Photo credit: Aila Images/Shutterstock

Does it feel hopeless trying to motivate your team to generate new ideas and improvements? It doesn't have to. Here's how to create a culture of experimentation that will make your competitors jealous.

Your foe isn't always that 200-pound gorilla of a competitor; it's typically the hour hand on the clock.

You have a limited window to hit your customer goals, launch that new product or deliver the next marketing campaign. With all of those balls in the air, who has time to iterate and test anything anymore? Better just ask your team to put in 60-hour weeks to get the projects done, right? Working hard is essentially saying that what you're currently doing isn't working, so let's do more of it.

Creating a culture of experimentation can save you from this fate.

Almost every single business unit, from a startup to a Fortune 500 company, has, at some point, wished they had more data, more ways to improve, etc. If you dedicate the right amount of time and resources, you can create a team that outperforms your competitors when it comes to innovation. Trying to find the main change agent to start? As a team leader, you only need look in the mirror.

Step 1: Promote trying, testing, failing

It is hard to try new things. Changing management processes can take months, sometimes even years. You can make it easier by sharing your own tests, especially the ones that fail. Your team will see the energy you're investing into improving the process.

Creating a culture of testing and experimentation comes from having an active leader – one who is willing to whip up a landing page or split-test the company's messaging. Show the team that those who try are the ones with a shot to propel the team forward.

Most teams that have a poor culture for experimentation do not have a leader who is willing to make mistakes. If you think you fall into this camp, remember your pride won't move the team forward, but improvements might.

Step 2: Provide the right tools

One natural barrier to experimentation is how to create and run experiments. You need to make this ridiculously easy.

Incorporate tools for testing your website or application messaging. Use resources to quickly create webpages and capture forms. Whatever your testing toolkit, with the right tools, any team member can create a quick test. That is the outcome you need.

Implementing a new experiment should be as easy as sending off an email or instant message to the team. Once your experiment is underway and you have the right tools in place, it's time to evaluate the results. 

Step 3: Show and tell     

After your team has created a few experiments, review the results together. Our team has a monthly metrics meeting where we all present a refresher on what our test was that month, the ways it could move the team forward and the results. The entire team has a chance to provide feedback on each project and can start to implement improvements. Once you set up the process, these updates and feedback sessions usually lead to the next wave of experiments you run. 

Don't be afraid to give your team the keys to test things. To create a culture of experimentation, you need to inspire your team to get passionate about testing – not simply running tests that you want to see. That doesn't mean you act on all of their ideas, but it does mean you should take the good ones.

Also, give your team realistic deadlines. Most teams cannot test things in a day or two. Set reasonable boundaries so the team doesn't feel stretched to deliver results in a week that, realistically, take close to a month or a quarter to complete. Bet on your team. A good team will fix broken processes, messaging and products. A good team that experiments by running tests and implementing the results can do all those things in about half the time.

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