How to Experiment
Want to make change happen? Wondering how to make it easier? Great. Here’s an approach to do just that.
Now is a good time to make change happen. This is a time of great unlocking, as I’ve written about in my chapter in Julia Steel’s recently published book Unite. Many of the rules and assumptions we’ve run our workplaces and our lives by are no longer serving the new context we find ourselves in. It’s a brilliant time to barbeque some sacred cows, experiment with some new ways, and unlock what’s possible so that we can create better lives, better workplaces and better communities.
I reckon most of us have ideas for how we’d like to change things. And there’s often a significant gap between ‘idea’ and ‘implementation’, right? How to bridge that gap? By deliberate experimentation.
Often, when we decide we want to make change happen, we’ll come up against resistance and blockages from the get-go. We’ll try something new, and it doesn’t work. We say that we failed, or we got it wrong. And so we stop. Nothing changes.
This type of good / bad, succeed / fail, right / wrong thinking limits us because it’s so binary. Carol Dweck’s ground-breaking research shows how this type of fixed mindset limits our adaptability, agency and ability to learn.
What if, instead, we took an experimental mindset? One where we value learning as much as we do achievement. When we do this, the world opens up. Efforts become experiments. Failures become insights. And progress becomes inevitable. And, as UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency points out, the more we experiment, the faster uncertainty dissipates. In such an uncertain world, we could all do with a little more certainty.
The Experiment Template
Over the years, I’ve crafted a useful tool to increase the chances of making change happen. It helps you to take an idea, try it out, learn from it, and make solid progress. This is one of the core tools in the Change Makers programme, where we help participants to build their experimental muscle to make change happen with more impact and less drama. Let’s take a look at it.
A well-designed and run experiment has four stages that run in a cycle: Plan, Do, Review, and Learn.
Let’s break down the stages:
Why you’re running it, what assumptions you want to test, what your hypothesis is, and what data you want to collect.
What you’ll actually do, when you’ll do it, and who else needs to be involved.
What evidence you gathered, what impact your experiment had, what was confirmed, and what surprised you.
The insights you gained, what might you be assuming, what might you do next.
Here’s how you can use it:
First, print off (or draw) this template.
Name it. Pick an experiment to run and write it at the top. It doesn’t have to be a big experiment. To start with, try something small with a low downside and lots of upside. Like seeing if you can be just as productive in a 30-minute team meeting as you are in 60 minutes. Let’s use that as an example.
Plan it. Write down the purpose, the assumptions you’ll test, the hypothesis you have, and data you want to collect.
Do it. Write down what you’ll do, when you’ll do it, and who else you need to involve. Then run it.
Review it. After you’ve run it, write down what happened: the evidence you collected, the impact your experiment had, what was confirmed and what surprised you.
Learn from it. Write down what conclusions you came to, what you might be assuming, and what experiments you might run next. It’s likely you’ll want to run another experiment to confirm your hypothesis or dig deeper into it.
And that’s it! Here’s your completed template.
Bonus tip: share your experiment. When you share what you’re up to, you’re more likely to bring others with you.
What we’ve learned by using this template:
- The deliberateness required to complete it means you build a more thorough, sustainable approach to creating change. Like going to the gym, you build your experimental muscle faster.
- You’re able to spot opportunities to experiment more quickly.
- You become more confident in trying new things.
- Learning becomes the norm, uncertainty turns into certainty, and, over time, change happens.
I’d love to hear how you get on using this.
And for now, just get experimenting!
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