How experimentation can bolster company culture

by Cameron Edmond11 Feb 2014
Bringing in an element of collaborative experimentation in your organisation can help to not only boost your product, but ingrain a progressive mentality into your company culture, one expert claims.

Writing for The Harvard Business Review, Shutterstock VP of product Wyatt Jenkins stated that through continuous testing of ideas, a culture of experimentation can begin to manifest in the organisation.

The benefits of an experimental culture include the death of “HiPPOs”, which Jenkins describes as the ‘Highest paid person’s Opinion”.

“A/B testing is a sure way to get to the bottom of a decision without relying on anyone’s gut instinct. At Shutterstock, if a senior executive has an idea in a meeting, the response is simply “Let’s test it.”,” he stated.

This can then follow into teams become more engaged – their ideas won’t be simply discarded, they’ll be tested. Even if they fail, it will increase their self-esteem and allow them to grow as workers and thinkers.

Jenkins added that testing teams should be kept small. In the case of Shutterstock, they would comprise of a business analyst, an engineer and a designer/front-end developer. Similar mixes of different business functions (but related to what is being tested) can be carried out in other industries.

These comments recall the “20% time” phenomena of the tech world in more ways than one. Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn and – most publically – Google have all implemented the concept or spirit of “20% time” into their organisation at one point or another.

The concept has been reported on heavily in the media, as it essentially allows employees to use some of their time to work on any company-related product they want, essentially experimenting with ideas that might not normally see the light of day. From this experimentation Gmail, Adsense and many other Google initiatives have grown.
Last year saw the end of 20% time at Google, or at least that is how it was reported by business journalists the world over. However, Ryan Tate, senior writer at Wired.com, stated that 20% time was never a formal initiative at Google, and so despite being officially killed, workers at Google continue to work on similar projects, and initiatives such as Hackathons continue to thrive in the tech industry.

Tate added that this is indicative of a culture of experimentation having developed in the tech industry, reinforcing Jenkins comments. Even if certain elements or initiatives are dialled-back, the culture that they have left will have a lasting impact on the vibrancy and spirit of an organisation.

What do you think of experimentation in the workplace? Can this help increase productivity and employee engagement? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
 

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