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HIPPOS: 5 Ways You’re the Problem in Your Testing Program and How to Fix It!


We get it. You’re the Hippo (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) for a reason. And you’ve built your career on creating successful testing and optimization campaigns. That’s why you’re the boss (and the highest paid). But being the hippo can create some real inefficiencies in your testing program. In other words, when you complain to your team about ineffectual tests, lower than expected test velocity and less than favorable ROI, the problem may be you.


Here are 5 ways to make sure your opinion is heard, your experience is leveraged AND you don’t get in the way of your program’s success.

1. “Let’s test it” isn’t good enough anymore

That fallback phrase may have worked when you needed to justify a testing budget but it shouldn’t be used by you, dear Hippo, anymore. Your team needs more than just random testing ideas. They need senior leadership and insight to prioritize testing ideas. This is not to say you can’t have an opinion or lose the ability to add testing ideas to the queue. This means that when defending your testing ideas, you need to hold yourself to the same standard you’ve set for your team; have a justification (backed by potential business learning) as the reason to test your idea.

2. Don’t stop the process!

If you approve all tests before they launch, don’t stop the process when you don’t like one. One major key to testing success is maintaining a steady test velocity. The last thing your program needs is to have you stop it dead in its tracks. Instead, voice your concerns for the test, ask your team to apply that thinking to future tests, and launch as planned. You’ll be surprised how much more empowered your team will feel moving forward.

3. Don’t facilitate brainstorms¬†

When brainstorming tests, it’s easy to take control of the agenda and steer the conversation. A common pitfall is shifting the tone of brainstorms to a HIPPO dictation session. Killing momentum in a brainstorm is the first step to losing innovation in your testing program. So move out from the front of the room and take a seat alongside your team.

4. Be transparent

This could be a best practice across any department. As the HIPPO, you may have insight into business decisions that others aren’t privy to. A frequently observed practice is to keep your team in the dark until decisions are final. The thought behind it is to circulate information only when it needs to be known. The problem with this lack of transparency is that work is still being down without any knowledge of potential changes. The highest performing testing clients that we work with have one thing in common: they have team members that are brought into business decisions whether they end up happening or not. As a result, the test queue is managed better.

5. Keep score, but admit when your “hunches” are wrong

Healthy competition is a great component of a vibrant testing culture. Keeping score on whose ideas win is a great way to keep everyone engaged. As the HIPPO you probably have an advantage over some of the junior members of your team in regards to winning testing ideas. But like all testing practices, you could be wrong. Losing gracefully is a great way to demonstrate to your team that no idea is a bad idea and you just never know until you test it.

Now is your turn. Do you have other ideas on how to change HIPPO behavior and maintain testing program efficiency? Let me know in the comments!