Create a Culture of Experimentation
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
Executing a series of quick and simple experiments is one of the best ways to quickly reduce uncertainty and make informed decisions.
Thus, a culture of acceleration often includes a culture of experimentation.
Experiments come in many forms. The simplest form involves an intervention followed by an observation followed by reflection. The intervention introduces a change, while the observation records the impact of that change and the reflection translates the experience into learning. This formula can be applied to experiments related to processes, technologies, documentation, requirements, and other program activities. It is important to recognize that the only failed experiment is one we do not learn from
Experiments are most effective when done as part of a regular practice rather than as isolated, occasional activities. We ask a question, perform an experiment that produces an answer… which leads to another question.
Building a culture of experimentation includes several components, including the following:
- Leaders support experimentation as a learning method
- Workforce understands the methods, procedures, and purposes of experimentation
- Workforce has access to resources (e.g. a sandbox environment that replicates the operational environment and can be used for doing experiments without impacting operations)
- Workforce has support from mentors and other catalysts to foster experimentation
- Workforce has access to mechanisms for sharing observations and lessons learned
Action You Can Take
- Introduce experimentation principles and practices to team.
- Quickly design and execute simple, informative experiments.
- Craft a “campaign of experiments” to provide regular pace of learning and discovery.
- Contact an Accelerator SME for support.
Additional Information and References
- Experiments In Doing Less. Dan Ward.
- Building a Culture of Experimentation, HBR, Mar 2020
- Campaign of Experiments, by Alberts & Hayes.
- Designing Strong Experiments, Strategyzer, Aug 2019
- How to Design an Innovation Culture, Strategyzer, Jun 2018
- Promoting Disruptive Military Innovation, Col George Dougherty, Jan 2018
- Continuous Improvement of NASA’s Innovation Ecosystem, National Academy of Sciences, 2019
- The Role of Experimentation Campaigns in the Innovation Lifecycle, a report from a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee.
- NAS Experimentation Report Briefing (summary of the NAS report above).
- Building a Culture of Innovation: A Practical Framework for Placing Innovation at the Core of Your Business. Cris Beswick, Derek Bishop, and Jo Geraghty.