Nick Johnston7 April 2020

How to encourage experimentation in your organisation

If you are anything like the rest of the business world, your strategy centres on a growth target. Regardless of the metric – revenue, impact, satisfaction – chances are you are planning to grow it into the future. But like your industry colleagues, I’ll bet that working on growth is an added extra and not ‘business as usual’.

So how can you make growth the status quo instead of it competing with ‘business as usual’? To do this, you need to focus on experimentation.

Experimentation might sound like something involving laboratories, flames and test tubes. But experimentation is simply the activity you undertake to test a hypothesis and learn. In an organisation, this means generating new ideas and experimenting with these to learn what works and what doesn’t.

An organisation with an experimentation focus drives its people to learn, change and grow by continuously trialling new ideas. These ideas can be small changes you make to see if it improves the outcome or completely new product offerings. Experimentation-focused employees have a genuine belief that every challenge is not a pass or a fail but a chance to learn.

You may already have some of these enlightened individuals scattered around. But the biggest hurdle for most organisations is that they are stuck in a pass/fail culture. In a pass/fail culture, employees soon learn that success is good, and failure is bad. They will continue to do things the same way they have in the past because they know that is a proven method to succeed. In a pass/fail culture, sustained growth is difficult as there’s no room to learn or adapt.

But when an organisation begins to focus on experimentation the game changes completely. It becomes one of constant learning, changing and growth. Teams collaborate, try new things and recognise challenges as opportunities to learn.

They understand that success is good, but failure is also good because they have learnt something new. In fact, success and failure are terms that aren’t used anymore, it’s all learning.

So how can you create an experimentation-focus in your business? The key to this change is in how you recognise your employees.

Pass/fail cultures reward talent and outcomes. “That worked – great job”. “That failed – don’t do that again”. This reward system deters employees from trying new things and instead, they persist with the status quo, even if their gut says there is a better way.

Instead, organisations with an experimentation-focus reward the process. Experimenting with something new is always rewarded, regardless of the outcome. “That failed – don’t do that again” becomes “that didn’t work out but it’s great because we learnt that our customers don’t want X”. This new focus on the process of experimenting encourages employees to generate and test their new ideas.

We all want our organisations to grow. But a pass/fail culture is holding most of us back. To reset your course for growth you need to embrace an experimentation focus. Start by rewarding your employees for experimenting with new ideas, regardless of the outcome. Over time you will make growth the new norm and create a team who thinks anything is possible.

Nick is Head of Growth at Inventium and responsible for creating a culture of experimentation at Inventium. If you want to chat experimentation with Nick drop him a line at