An ‘experiment’ is a structured approach to finding something out: or not. An ‘experiment’ may also describe how we just blunder in and try something. We pick it up and experiment with it. Like teenagers smoking behind the bike sheds. But what does it mean, within an Organisation, to experiment?
Over the last two years i have been working on two iterations of work to explore this: to consider how you actually figure out, and carry out, an ‘experiment’ within a busy organisational environment (and avoid it simply becoming another ‘project’. This week i am working on a third iteration of this work, and have settled on six aspects that seem particularly important, and i will be working to publish this in due course.
In the first part, we consider what it means to experiment within the Organisation, either as part of a programme, or individually: in a rather pragmatic sense (as opposed to a scientific one), what do we actually mean, and what do we seek to achieve?
We move on in part 2 to look at ‘Research Areas and Methodology’: this is about how we narrow down what to look at, and the ways in which we can do so: observation, experimentation, data collection, research etc. This, again, is not a purists view, but rather a pragmatists one: will you do an experiment by seeing what goes on within your Organisation already, or by looking outside? Will you generate new data through survey or observation, or use data that already exists? Will you take action, or just carry out online research etc. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer, except in the context that if we plan it, and do what we plan, we are doing well, and if we just ramble around and end up doing what feels easy, we are not.
Part 3 gets into the detail of experimental design and techniques: how we collect data, and various tips and strategies for so doing.
Part 4 is the part where your heart sinks: when you are collecting data, there is always a moment when you are waiting, or confused, or frustrated. So here we consider how to generate momentum, and how to manage stakeholder expectation, as well as to maintain validity in what you are doing.
Part 5 is a reflective part: how does it actually feel to be an ‘experimental’ leader? What does the process look like and feel like within your current culture? This is important because so many Organisations describe, or believe, that ‘experiments’ are something you do within current culture, whilst in fact if you do them right you redraw culture, because you learn, and change.
Finally: Part 6 considers how we analyse whatever we find, and tell stories out of it. There is no point learning unless we share it, so to figure out the type of stories we can tell, and the pitfalls to avoid, is valuable.