Our lives are one big experiment that we are continually running. For the majority however, we most likely never think about this in a deliberate way. Well, maybe scientists do…
Over the last 10 years, I’ve grown to think differently. I’ve become much more of a learner, continually practicing and evolving a beginner’s mindset. My work at Pollenizer feeds this practice everyday.
We set goals and then run experiments that help us continually learn through a build, measure and learn discipline. This assists in providing evidence and clarity to remove risks when making decisions.
Here’s a few experiments that I’ve been running in Pollenizer over the last 9 months, since I returned full time in my role as COO. Whether you’re consolidating your startup’s culture, working in a corporate team or managing people from either environment, these following experiments will help you balance, grow and adapt your culture to be more resilient and better in 2017.
Before I begin, let me share our simple experiment designer wording. You can also grab the tool from our Startup Science tool stack for future use:
Related Goal: Link to personal or company goals
Hypothesis: What we believe is true.
Test: How we will observe a real situation.
Expected Behaviour: What we expect to see happen if hypothesis is correct.
Experiment 1. The 80/20 rule
Related Goal: Create and maintain an environment that continually motivates the whole team to do our best work.
Hypothesis: Introducing a new way of thinking. Measuring what we love and what we hate in our work will increase the productivity of the business.
Test: One on One conversations with all staff to commence a process that will help us understand what each team member loves and hates about their work. From there we can work to increase what they love more deliberately by working together to make incremental changes and shift any imbalances.
Expected Behaviour: This experiment will help to build more trusted relationships. We will be able to speak more honestly and learn how to stay balanced on a personal level and as a business.
I talk a lot with our team about their 80/20. It’s really important to me to know that everyone who works at Pollenizer loves at least 80% of what they do in their work. Every role has a bunch of stuff that simply comes with the job, that, given a choice we’d prefer not to do. We have to accept this. But this shouldn’t exceed more than 20%. If it does then people start underperform and in turn become miserable. If the scale tips too far for too long, it can lead to burnout and serious impact on people’s health.
As a leader, it’s our responsibility to be mindful and to observe and assist when we see someone in our team struggling. More importantly, we can all help ourselves stay balanced by regularly checking in with ourselves to monitor our performance against the forces pulling or pushing us out of balance. When we find ourselves out of balance, how can we find our way back? As a leader, are you creating a safe environment for your team?
The expected behaviour from this experiment is starting to emerge. We’re implementing changes for better alignment and commencing new experiments to help us learn as we transition to new ways of operating as a business. As we adapt, we are closely monitoring remaining balanced in our 80/20.
Experiment 2. Candid Conversation
Related Goal: Create and maintain an environment that continually encourages open, honest conversation, removing the fear of failure.
Hypothesis: Providing an environment that includes difficult conversation will increase respect and honesty in our team.
Test: As a leader, deliberately start a minimum of 5 difficult conversations a month (Difficult being something that, at first I feel uncomfortable about the conversation in some way).
Expected Behaviour: I will increase my confidence and learn how to understand areas that I can improve on a personal level, in order to gain the trust and respect of the people I work with.
One of my core personal values is honesty. I believe in candid conversation even though it can be incredibly confronting most of the time, for everyone involved. If we don’t talk about what we’re feeling, frustration begins to set in. Resentment left untended to, or even anger, might start to bubble. By experimenting and getting comfortable with vulnerability, I’m finding this a little easier. I encourage the team to challenge my decisions, ask lots of questions, tell me their fears. This works both ways. Being naturally curious, I continually ask lots of questions until I have clarity. I’m learning to talk more openly about my fears and I challenge decisions when I don’t understand the reasoning. If we don’t have clarity then we become blocked.
We’re starting to see results. Feedback from one team member is;
“I’m now confident to take on projects OR say no. This has given me a lot of mental assurance and peace, which means I’m able to work more effectively.”
Experiment 3. 200% accountability
Related Goal: Create and maintain an environment that continually forces us to all to take accountability.
Hypothesis: By introducing the 200% accountability mindset we will all begin to practice taking accountability first before blaming others.
Test: Introduce the concept of 200% accountability to the team and practice personally improving the habit of looking at my own behaviour/accountability first.
Expected Behaviour: As a team we will observe an increase in team strength and positivity.
This is the latest of my experiments. I was first introduced to this concept by Michael Bunting, an incredible coach in Mindful Leadership, as Michael explains in this article, we are all guilty of self-sabotaging behavior and generally have no idea that is what we actually are doing. Taking ownership of how we act in frustrating situations is quite a profound learning journey.
I started to practice paying attention to how I was responding to some situations and switching the focus to looking at myself first. I’m finding it incredibly valuable. I’ll share more insights as this experiment unfolds.
Running experiments in a deliberate way doesn’t come naturally to everyone. This is something that I’ve needed to learn. I’m still practicing forming this habit and often need to work hard at ensuring I record results and analyze my findings.
Of course the experiments above will never be finished, we must revisit them regularly, revise and re run them to stay ahead in our fast paced world. By using experiments like these to build-measure-learn, we can balance, grow and adapt our internal culture to be better and resilient.
Let us know if you use experiments. If you have a process, how do you track your learning? Feel free to post your responses in the comments – I look forward to hearing from you.
Chief Operating Officer
Clare Hallam is the COO and a Director of Pollenizer. Since 2008 she has pioneered the process in which startups are managed and governed, helping many of Australia’s best-known startups transform ideas into sustainable businesses.
What you mentioned above reminded me of a quote from Peter F. Drucker – ‘The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations. I have been practising this method for 15 to 20 years now, and every time I do it, I am surprised.’
In a world where we all seem to have so many competing priorities and different ‘urgent’ tasks that vie for our attention – I believe it’s very easy to fall into the trap of just doing the work – without actively learning from the feedback we get each time we take an action.
I’ll be more mindful of this to help speed up my learning curve, thank you for sharing your experience Clare.
Thanks Dennis, I agree we are all guilty of getting caught in ‘doing the work’ without pausing to reflect if it’s the right work.