The Importance of Experimentation

Whether in the topic area of business model change, business model transformation, artificial intelligence, product development, user interface design, or any other area of significant change, it is common to hear experienced practitioners assert the importance of experimentation.

If you marshal the forces of the entire company for something that has not been well thought through, or has not been validated with a subset of the people who are supposed to benefit from the change, then it will be twice as hard, if not impossible, to get the support of the company next time you want to make a significant change.

Multiple times I have seen hard-headed leaders take the position that in order to overcome resistance to change, they must make a portfolio-wide change so everyone “gets it” that they mean “business”, and that the change is going to happen whether those resisting change are on board of not. Resistance to change is a real and substantial issue, and how to respond to it is an important change conversation that spans areas as diverse as workforce composition, incentives, and managing people out. But a hard-headed approach to change is simply wrong-headed, and mostly disastrous. It is one thing for a leader to stand firmly behind a policy, for example no discrimination based on gender and race. It is another thing for a leader to shove an incredibly complicated change down the throats of an entire company when the process, enablement, channel, and selling propositions have not been plumbed or validated.

Experimentation is crucial to change. Experimentation is crucial to innovation. Perhaps Thomas Edison said it best:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Finding 10,000 ways that won’t work is an essential part of the journey to finding a way that will work. It is true for all major changes. When it comes to change and innovation, experimentation is your best friend. Hard-headed leaders are your worst.

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