I spent Friday with a great group of people thinking about experimentation. The session was held at IDEO under the auspices of the Management Lab (MLab). MLab was founded by Gary Hamel and is designed to support research and experimentation around the future of management. It is a great privilege to hang out with Gary and the other smart people he invites to these events. I will leave it to Gary to publish more about the content of the session but it did get me thinking about how important it is to remind ourselves of the value of experimentation. My hypothesis is that organizations generally avoid experimentation when it comes to processes and management. In fact they positively hate it. One reason may be that it is scary to mess with people and processes and much harder to do than messing around with new technology or new products. That feels more like an excuse than a reason to me. I believe we lack processes for prototyping our ideas quickly when it comes to management. One insight that came from the day was that experiments too often turn into initiatives. Experiments are designed for learning and it is okay if they fail whereas initiatives are too important to fail. I came away thinking that initiatives are things to be avoided at least until you have learnt from some experiments.
In the interests of learning, here is another IDEO blog that publishses some of the experiments we have been up to recently. It’s called IDEO Labs.