Today’s common products, services, and technologies were yesterday’s experiments. The Wright Brothers famously spent years conducting experiments to test their glider. Though many of their experiments ended in crashed prototypes, they learned something each time, leading to 12-seconds of powered flight and all of the subsequent innovations that we benefit from today.
Even if we aren’t in the business of building airplanes, we are in the business of making progress. It could be an invention, but more often it’s as simple as a new and different way of doing something. At its core, experimentation is an intentional discipline that helps us innovate.
The goal is to quickly learn what works, what doesn’t, and make adjustments. This helps us create virtuous cycles of mutual benefit.
Experimentation is a discipline that helps you determine the validity of a hypothesis to learn, adapt, and change accordingly.
Consider talking to your team about possible opportunities to change or transform what you do. What experiments can help you get there faster?
Aspects of a well-designed experiment:
- Hypothesis – An idea, proposal, or solution that could potentially be falsified through testing.
- A beginning and end – Have a clear start and endpoint to evaluate the learnings and path forward.
- Appropriate scope – Clarify what is and isn’t being tested, on what scale, with whom, etc.
- Realistic Conditions – Test conditions should inform implementing the idea on a larger scale.
Experiments are useful when:
- You are seeking the best possible solution out of many.
- There is a high uncertainty whether any solution will be effective.
- The solution is very innovative or different and we don’t yet know how it will be received by customers.
- The cost of failure is high relative to the cost of the experiment.
- The cost to “commercialize” is high compared to the cost to experiment.