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Creating a Culture of Experimentation


For organizations large to small, “culture” has been top of mind for leaders who aspire to build a team that delivers consistent value to their industry and to the market. One that inspires employees to dream, make, and do, and follow the lead of the world’s most admired companies who are widely revered for their precedent-setting innovations.

At Brooks Bell, we know that designing an organization’s culture is central to shaping its continued success, not just in how team members work together but in their ability to think freely about possibilities yet to be uncovered. This is where establishing a culture of experimentation comes in.

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A culture of experimentation means everyone across an organization—regardless of seniority—feels empowered to explore and execute new ideas. Team members in these types of organizations adopt a mindset of asking big questions and diligently uncovering their answers.

As customers engage with brands across an ever-increasing number of channels, success hinges on the brand’s ability to truly understand an audience and anticipate their needs across experiences. But, pinpointing which touchpoints across the customer journey requires experimentation and invention can be a challenge for any organization.

“Unless companies learn to challenge their current ways of thinking, they will not be able to survive. If a company is lucky enough to have a CEO who is visionary and can set the stage, it is easier for people to start exploring.”

Jerry Wind, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania

Although the process of experimentation seems straightforward, it is surprisingly hard in practice, forcing organizations to overcome process and technological challenges. That’s the overarching conclusion of HBR’s 40-plus years of collective experience conducting and studying business experiments at dozens of Fortune 500 organizations.

The key to beginning to identify opportunities for experimentation is to keep it simple. Begin iterating within insignificant moments of your customer experiences, always seeking to ease friction or emotional/mental burden for the customer, and doing so incrementally so you’re able to get a clear picture of what’s actually working and what isn’t. Once you’ve uncovered insights that transcend that moment in the experience, scale those learnings across your site, your department, and your global teams.

Creating a workplace culture that makes employees feel comfortable, collaborative, and safe is critical to any company’s success. But if part of your organization’s goals for the coming years is to create a lasting impact within and outside of your industry, establishing and celebrating a culture of experimentation is pivotal. A culture of experimentation allows teams to look beyond short-term recommendations and even further beyond challenging the status quo. Experimentation can and should be at the heart of core business decisions, product and research priorities, even employee engagement initiatives.

Staying true to starting simple, ask yourself (or your team) these simple questions: 

  1. What do you want to learn? 
  2. What do we want to better understand at a team, as a company?
  3. What possibilities emerge once we have that understanding?

After that, the sky’s the limit.