How to create a culture of experimentation ?

Creating an environment where curiosity is stimulated, where data trumps insights, where everyone can experiment, where testing is conducted ethically, and where managers embrace a new model of leadership.

Case study:

End of 2017, just before the start of a busy winter tourist season. The design director at offers to test a completely different new homepage for their website.

Exit the many choices of hotels, vacation rentals and destinations, the new version would only display a small window asking the Internet user where he wants to go, on what date and with how many people, and it does not would only offer 3 headings: “accommodation”, “flights” and “car rental”. All other elements (photos, text, buttons and messages) that took years to improve would be removed.

The CEO at the time, Gillian Tans, was rather skeptical. Indeed, she fears that this radical change will sow confusion among loyal customers. Lukas Vermeer, then head of the strategic experimentation team, bets a bottle of champagne that it will cause the conversion rate to drop i.e. the number of visitors to the site who actually make a reservation.

The reception was therefore mixed, however the management did not issue a veto. For what ? Because it would have gone against one of the key principles of any employee can test what they want, without having to obtain permission from management., like many digital companies (Amazon, Meta, Google and Microsoft), continuously performs more than a thousand rigorous tests, which by some estimates amounts to more than 20,000 tests per year . It is all these experiments that have enabled this Dutch start-up to become in less than 20 years the largest online booking and accommodation platform in the world.

The power of online experimentation is not only for the digital giants, companies that were not born in the digital age such as FedEx and H&M, have also adopted “online testing to identify the best digital touchpoints, design choices, discounts and product recommendations.

Companies with this culture of experimentation remain rare. Indeed, instead of performing hundreds or thousands of online experiments each year, many firms are content with a handful of tests that do not really change things.

If testing is so useful, why aren’t companies doing more of it?

When companies seek to increase their capabilities for online experimentation, they often find that the barriers are not in tools or technology, but rather in behaviors, beliefs and shared values.

For every successful experience, a dozen more will fail, and for many leaders who are focused on efficiency, predictability, and success, those failures are pointless.

However, to innovate well, a company must make experimentation an integral part of its daily life, even when budgets are tight.

This means creating an environment where the curiosity of employees is stimulated, where data is trusted rather than opinions, where any employee can perform tests, where all experiments are carried out in an ethical manner. , and where managers adopt a new model of leadership.

The key points of this case study:

It is corporate culture (not tools or technology) that keeps companies from performing the hundreds, if not thousands, of tests they should perform each year and then apply the results.

It even appears to be less risky to carry out a large number of experiments than a small number. If a company only performs a handful of tests a year, their chances of getting positive results are slim to none. The failure is then resounding.

In a nutshell, to create a corporate culture of experimentation, here are some steps to take:

  1. Encourage risk taking: It is important to create an environment where employees are encouraged to take risks and try new things. This can be done by rewarding employees for their innovative ideas and celebrating failures as learning opportunities.
  2. Foster collaboration: Collaboration is key to encouraging experimentation. Employees should be encouraged to work together and share their ideas to find innovative solutions.
  3. Empower: Employees must have access to the tools and resources needed to experience
  4. Establish clear processes: Clear, well-defined processes can help employees experiment effectively. Employees need to know how to come up with ideas, how to test them, and how to evaluate the results.
  5. Measure results: It is important to measure the results of experiments to determine their success. Employees should be encouraged to document their results and share their learnings with the entire company.

By following these 5 steps, companies can create a corporate culture of experimentation that encourages sustainable innovation and long-term growth.

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