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Decision Making: Testing The Idea

decision making innovation Sep 14, 2022
Experiment: Innovation - Decision Making Cycle

Rather than a big move, small steps will give your idea the best chance to fully evolve. When embarking on something new there is much you don’t yet know and so much yet to learn. An experiment is exactly what you need to start off on the right foot and increase your chances of success.

"Practicing little bets frees us from the expectation that we should know everything we need to know before we begin." ~Peter Sims

Innovation has the best chance to embed into the life of your team and organization if you explore the potential and work out the kinks through a well designed experiment. Any new idea you’ve decided to implement deserves a “test” to see how well it works.To get started, let’s ask ourselves, “What are critical considerations in the design of this experiment?”

Define Criteria for Evaluation

Before you begin, having a clear definition of expected outcomes will help your experiment provide you useful information in service of moving towards success. Recently, I launched my own experiment in outsourcing an activity that I had been doing in-house for sometime. Handing off important work was a bit intimidating and it was necessary to define the criteria I would use to determine if my outsourcing experiment would be successful. Criteria I set included: 

  • The quality of the product was at least equal to the in-house project 
  • The tools used with ease;  training on those tools is accessible and effective.
  • The process will be redesigned to improve efficiency and save time

Set Expectations for the Process

Expectations you have for an experiment will likely look different than the final implementation of your idea. Of course, you want innovation to lead to improvements. However, during an experiment your expectations involve learning and gathering information to help you decide whether to move forward or let go of the idea. This involves making minimal investments to see what will yield a return on that investment and what might not be worth the effort.

In  my outsourcing experiment, I wanted to learn if I could let go of the process and still receive a quality product. I wanted to learn if the process could become more efficient and offer time saved so my focus could turn to alternative priorities. To learn what I needed to in the experiment I had to ask myself a few questions.

  1. How long would it take to get the information I needed?
  2. How many iterations was I willing to test to see if we could achieve efficiency?
  3. How much was I willing to invest – financially and time – to learn?

Collect Useful Feedback

Before you begin, you will want to determine what information you will need to collect to evaluate your experiment and how you will collect it. What specific observations need to be made that will provide you data that you can evaluate against the criteria you set. 

The goal of outsourcing for me was to increase the time I had available to focus on other things. This requires that I start with a baseline of how much time I was spending on the activity. Then, conduct the out-sourcing experiment and observe what I was able to accomplish during the week. I would need to observe a decrease in the allocation of my time on the work this out-sourcing experiment focused on to know if the experiment was worth turning into an innovative change that I wanted to integrate into the way I work.

Next Steps

The goal of any experiment is to generate information that assesses progress and learn what you can about the potential of your innovation in a way that will propel you forward. The insights you gain can help you plan and execute next steps.

"Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win." ~Peter Sims

It’s worth noting that an experiment can have multiple outcomes. It can uncover unanticipated side effects, it can meet expectations or it can totally flop. Let’s talk about how to evaluate your experiment and what action to take in the next blog. Conducting an experiment isn’t the end of the process, it’s simply the first step in implementing and integrating innovation. Comment below on criteria you’ve used to evaluate an experiment. I’d love to hear about your learning journey.

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