Give It Up. Experimentation

Transitioning People Through Constant Change

In this series of posts I am exploring the Give It Up model in which we move away from the command and control of manager to the delegation and trust of true leaders. 



In a world of constant change, experimentation is critical. Innovation cannot exist without experimentation. Experimentation is at the core of the success of organizations such as Amazon, Starbucks, and Google. Some experiments work while others don’t.

Amazon experimented with ‘lockers’. These were locked storage units located in various stores where Amazon customers could collect their packages. Seemingly a good idea, some stores, such as RadioShack and Staples, rejected the lockers. So maybe that experiment didn't work as hoped.

Starbucks experimented with a high-end coffee machine called Clover for many years. They experimented with it in a small number of stores and when the experiment was a success, they bought the company that manufactures them.

Clover is part of the Starbucks internet-of-things strategy and has been rolled out across stores. Clover keeps track of which setting and coffee each customer prefers, so that when the customer pays by scanning their mobile device, the machine receives precise instructions on how to make the drink.

The Starbuck’s internet-of-things strategy has included putting refrigerators on the internet so that employees are informed when to discard aging milk; wireless charging mats for customer mobile devices; and sensors in ceramic cups to understand customer drinking habits like sip size, drink speed, how much coffee they leave, and what they add to their coffee.

These all started out as experiments. Some fail and some work. But to stay ahead of the game we have to experiment.

There are clear benefits for fostering an environment for experimentation.

Better decision-making. When we experiment, we are basing decisions on real results, not just gut feel or theory. 

A sense of wonder. The more experiments we conduct, the more likely there will be an unexpected result. We learn something that we didn't know.

Freedom. Instead of hierarchical control and inordinate approval processes, employees at all levels in the organisation are given the freedom to have a go, and test out their ideas.

The challenge is ensuring that despite encouraging experimentation, the idea isn’t stifled by leaders who revert to a command and control approach.

Leaders need to encourage divergent thinking—coming up with lots of ideas and answers to the same problem rather than stopping at one. They need to give employees ownership for the experiments and remove fear of failure. If employees fear failure, they will not be creative. Failures are learning experiences and should be celebrated as such.

Game score

Winning teams don’t do great things because they were told to. They have the power to make great things happen. They are free to experiment, create and innovate.

In subsequent posts in this series I will be exploring the additional elements of the Give It Up model.

Karen FerrisComment