The human mind is extraordinarily surprising, but we all reach a point where we stop trying new things and stick with the usual. That’s why childhood is the most interesting part of life.
When you were 5 years old, you didn’t care much about what was right and what was wrong. You wanted to try new things by yourself. You probably ate sand to see how it tasted; you mixed soap with oil and cocoa powder for fun or you tried to fly from one bed to another using your scarf as your superpower.
Been there, done that huh?
However, the question is, do you stop experimenting because you grow up or do you grow up because you stop experimenting? One thing is sure: Trying new things allows you to pry yourself loose from the jaws of mediocrity and will certainly keep you and your organization ALIVE and fresh. That’s exactly why you need a head of experimentation in your team.
1- What a “head of experimentation” actually means:
Just in case you have never heard about it, the role of a head of experimentation is to validate ideas and projects. It is the phase that goes beyond ideation but a bit before innovation. It consists of testing how people will react to an idea in the real world and to identify what works and what doesn’t.
Today, organizations should seriously start thinking about hiring a head of experimentation because where there are risk and uncertainty, there is a promising outcome. And if there is one thing that’s certain in business, it’s uncertainty.
2- Reasons for hiring a head of experimentation:
- Avoiding financial loss caused by a failed launch, by turning opinions into facts, leading to a better decision-making.
- If done right, experiments are not costly. Most of your employees are doing it without calling it as such, however, strategic and well-thought experiments generate great return-on-learning.
- The head of experimentation will help your employees run faster and more efficient experiments to validate their ideas. Without a head of experimentation, your employees will lack time and ownership to experiment new things and will rather build the first approach directly (which can later be costly and vain).
- All the units can be supported by the head of experimentation, thus, the way you run your business will be constantly evolving and failure will be considered as an inevitable part of thinking boldly.
- The history of innovation is certainly the story of ideas that seemed dumb at the time. But when the budget is limited, you have to pick ideas and learn to say ‘No’ to some of them. But how would you know when to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ without previous validation?
- You don’t really have to limit yourself to only one experiment while solving a problem or reaching out for value. With 2 or 3 experiments, the output comes in different iterations from which you can choose, and that obviously minimizes the risk of failure.
- Last but not least, don’t underestimate the power of a head of experimentation to gather evidence to persuade budget holders and stakeholders. It is not a goal per se, but it helps enormously when it comes to calculating the ROI of your projects.
Example of companies who became more experimental:
Actually, lots of startups and big companies like Skyscanner, Uber, and Paypal have already understood the need for experimentation and innovation, which is why they all created the Head of Experimentation and Head of Innovation roles in their teams. Innovation and experimentation – like two chemical substances – when used together, create a perfect solution.
At Skyscanner for instance, growth experimentation follows a process called the “Growth Factory”
Skyscanner’s Growth Factory Process
The growth department of Skyscanner is dividing this ‘Growth factory’ into 3 components:
People — Empowering employees in running growth experimentation, both innovative experiments or integrated campaigns.
Process — Rewarding best practices and lean methods when running growth experiments.
Tooling — Supporting members to run experiments as easily and quickly as possible. They also help to increase the transparency of growth activities.
However, even for big companies like Skyscanner, experimentation is not always sunshine and rainbows. They always try to ensure that the experimentation team is using the correct test methodology in their test design. They watch resource spending closely and make sure that they are running their experiment for the correct amount of time etc.
3- What you should know before hiring a Head of experimentation:
If you want to become, or hire a head of experimentation, you should keep in mind the fact that experimenting is a strategy that allows you to do hard stuff up front, to avoid wasting time, energy and resources with things that wouldn’t have worked in the first place.
Also, experimenting should go beyond ‘being right’; its aim is mainly to explore all the possibilities to launch a product or service successfully.
Moreover, don’t forget that some experiments will not be perfect and that not all of them will be equal, because other than the success factor, other variables enter the game (such as cost, impact, level of commitment, etc.)
Integrating experimentation as a way to test the unknown is a wise approach to realize a promising future for you and your business.
You may now be sure that your scarf won’t serve you as wings to fly, that sand tastes salty and gross and that cutting your bang by yourself wasn’t really a great idea to start with. You also know that the project you thought was lit turned out to be a no-no… But at least you tried. And that’s the spirit you should implement in your business.
So, to help you start with it, we have made this Experiment Card for you to gather your ideas. DOWNLOAD IT here FOR FREE and enjoy!
Too lazy to read? We have made this slide deck for you :