Why experiments are the key for your organization

Managers and leaders, do you believe in “best practice”, belittle the idea of experiments, have you implemented solutions that didn’t last,  or are you afraid of failure? Let’s explore the possible ways out of this mess.

In my past 20+ years of working with organizations, I observed this typical behavior that people jump pretty quickly from problem to solution and these “quick-fixes” will not bring the desired outcome. They will not bring the organization closer towards its goal. Instead, after a short hustle, people will fall back into old ways of working and the overall learning is close to nil. 

What to do differently? First of all, you need to understand that organizations are complex systems. The only proven way to navigate in a complex system is to start with potential solutions, execute those, and continuously reflect whether those will bring you closer to your goal. In other words, you start experimenting.

How do you find those experiments? The first issue is that each person has their own view, their own opinion of the problem. However, there is no shared understanding of the problem. Therefore create a shared understanding within the group of affected people.

Additionally, everybody involved has their own view on what is the goal. Each system has a system optimization goal, either explicit or implicit. Therefore create a common understanding of the organization’s optimization goal.

One elegant and very powerful way to create a shared understanding of the problem and defining the optimization goal is by using Causal Loop Diagrams as applied in Systems Thinking, which typically is done in form of a workshop. Only now you are ready to brainstorm experiments, take another step, which might bring you closer to your organizational goal. 

The myth of “best practice” often comes from the hope to find the easy way out, without investing in all this experimenting and thus learning. Opening a can of beans requires a can opener. Your organization is not like a can of beans! There is no easy tool or “best practice” that will help you.

You do not need to reinvent the wheel either. Search for ideas, discuss with experts, and get inspired by other organizations (case studies). Yet you will need to see whether those ideas will work in your organization and whether they will solve your problem!

Last but not least. You, leaders of your organization, need to create an environment in which it is safe to fail! If your people are afraid to try out new things, you will fail to reach your goals. Only through experimentation, your organization will become a learning organization and you will reach your goals.

“The greatest teacher, failure is.”-Master Yoda

We all learn this right now as we fight the Covid-19 virus.

Good luck, Wolfgang

Why experiments are the key for a learning organization
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