Purposeful experimentation = innovative leaps

Wouldn’t it be marvelous if there was a computer simulation that would enable you to test out new, radical business moves. What if you could set it running and see what happens if you abolish set working hours, make all meetings optional, put a bunch of Rail developers in charge of HMRC, or have everyone in your company spend half their time doing whatever they want?

The trouble is, the simulation would never be able to make a true prediction. There are too many variables, too much complexity, too many interconnected happenings and influences, to ever dream of accurately estimating how it’ll pan out. The vast majority of financial forecasts looked at in retrospect betray this insufferable lost cause.

This leaves us with a couple of options:

1. Don’t test out any new, radical business moves and hope doing the usual stuff yields results

or

2. Break down any barriers preventing people from purposefully experimenting. These barriers can be cultural, psychological, financial, social or structural. You won’t spot all of them; nor will any individual. That’s why feedback loops are important.

You might want to begin by making a list of barriers you can see in front of you. Have others add to the list, from all levels in the organisation. If someone demonstrates a particularly deep understanding and passion around a specific barrier, put them in charge of coming up with a plan to dismantle it. Take responsibility for ensuring they’re able to work autonomously and purposefully, measuring the results and sharing the learnings. Make sure they can connect with anyone they need to. Focus on instilling a culture of grownup trust; free from blame, shame and regret.

I’m not saying everyone employed in simulations and forecasts is wasting their time. On the contrary, there’s extreme value in attempting to understand influences, spot patterns and gauge what might happen next.

I’m just saying the only way to consistently and frequently make great innovative leaps is by relentlessly trying, failing, succeeding and discovering for ourselves. Conveniently enough, it also makes for happier, more fulfilling lives all round; not to mention greater profitability.

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