Do you know how many times per month, if not per day, I hear the phrase “this is best practice” from the product and marketing teams I work with? Too much!
It made me start to wonder if best practices are in fact a great strategic tool? Or is it just a safe excuse to hide when there is a lack of will to innovate?
Relying on best practices does not guarantee success. As we saw in 2020, what was once best practice in 2019 was not really relevant. And this year is yet another new story when it comes to customer behavior.
I’m not saying best practices are no longer relevant – there’s always a right way to do things and a right way to do things – it’s just a case that exists now After ways of doing things.
However, in my experience, companies often see “best practices” as a proven way to operate with the idea “this is how we do things, this is how we always will do it”. But I believe what we need now is a culture of innovation and experimentation – we need to focus on the future, not look back.
So why are experimentation and innovation important? I’ll say the obvious here… the world has changed, in many ways. And we can expect that to continue to change.
It has changed not only the way consumers think, but businesses as well. Therefore, not only to survive, but to grow in a saturated market full of new emerging companies and creative and driven startups, they must lose the safety net of best practice.
Essentially, to come up with something new and innovative and to respond to changing customer behavior, sometimes you have to forget what you already know.
Businesses should encourage the ‘freedom to fail’
Take the example of British Gas – a company that might not come to mind when thinking of innovation. They managed to change this perception internally. They allowed failures.
British Gas has selected a special team dedicated to the development of an innovative new heating technology. The group was completely detached from the British Gas ‘mothership’ – they were given freedom. A facility like this, especially in long established businesses, is still a rare gem to find, rather than a common practice.
This team took a ‘freedom to fail’ approach – initially developing an app for remote control of heating and hot water. They continued to innovate and created a multi-product app to also control lighting and appliances.
It’s pretty impressive, especially because you probably know its name: Hive, the thermostat kit. But what is the moral of this example?
When I asked how it worked, Americo Lenza, portfolio manager at British Gas (who includes Hive) said, “One of the things about design and development is not being afraid to learn and to decide on a different direction, even if it works. . It’s not about settling for a solution, it’s about finding the best solution for the customer. “
I really like this attitude because it shows how important it is for companies to allow the freedom to experiment without borders. Otherwise, you will continue to do what you did before… just a little differently.
I firmly believe that to empower teams, you need to give them control over when, where and how they work. You can’t dictate a specific time of day when they need to “get creative”.
So if the big monolithic companies perceived as British Gas can flex, surely everyone can. It’s more a matter of state of mind than budget. It should be understood that the “freedom to fail” is an acceptable part of the development process. It’s about building a relationship of trust that will encourage motivation and boost creativity.
It is certainly a principle that I adopted at Freestyle. People will only come up with amazing things if they feel psychologically safe.
There is no right or wrong way to experiment
Experimentation in its truest form must be independent of technology and practice. It should just be up to the experimental team to find out what will work for them.
For this year and beyond, when considering and developing new products and services, remember that the development of your proposals must be fluid. If we’ve learned anything from the last year it’s that we can adapt quickly.
Find the most efficient way to experiment based on your own corporate culture. Whether it’s creating a new internal department, setting aside a percentage of time each month, or allocating a budget to a secret project.
Instead of a quick fix, big bang or other clichés, why not set yourself a “ minimum learning level ” – what is the minimum experimentation you can do to learn something? again on a particular problem?
Once you’ve proven or disproved a hunch, ask yourself what the next step of experimentation might accomplish? This way you don’t need to define a big budget “ experiment ” row in your P&L, you can process it more iteratively until it becomes part of your process.
Don’t get stuck with one idea, try out multiple ideas, and be honest about what works and what doesn’t. Always be transparent. If you are manipulating the results based on an idea that was developed in-house, ask yourself why? Don’t be narrow-minded in your approach, identify what will work for your business, and make sure the goals remain relevant to your wider audience.
Let’s not forget that best practices are still relevant when it comes to the development of proposals. But it’s a matter of digging deeper into the analysis of customer research and segmentation. It’s not just about finding out what your customers need and what they want most – it’s about finding out what they want and what they don’t necessarily need, and what they have. need and don’t necessarily want.
Create a curious culture
The transition to a culture like this doesn’t happen overnight. I encourage teams to engage in curious thinking by introducing a “how could we” approach into the problem-solving process.
This framework works by reframing a challenge around key outcomes that are critical to success, instead of focusing on the problem at hand – helping generate ideas and spark new conversations to uncover potential solutions.
I believe that failures on the path to innovation are as important as successes. Introducing failure walls can help people talk about failure without discrediting their hard work, experiences, or expertise – allowing people to try things they wouldn’t normally try, with the aim of ‘learn.
Personally, I find a particular “have we tried something new?” The question style in project retrospectives is a good way to bring out curious thoughts and experiences. Previously, our post-project washes were usually a blame for the customer not helping us deliver a particular project well. Now we have turned the situation around.
Not only do we do 360 retrospectives that include the customer, but we’ve also developed part of the process that is open, honest, and transparent – identifying flaws and celebrating successes, starting with acknowledging that nothing goes perfectly.
I also encouraged a more transparent personal freedom to fail culture. We had an employee who at first glance seemed like a good fit for the company, but after a few months we realized he had overestimated his abilities and was struggling to keep up with the team.
We agreed to reduce its role and chart a path to achieve its original status – then we communicated it to the whole company. When he got his grade a few months later, everyone celebrated and we all felt we had won.
Why should we measure by ideas rather than results
It’s great to see more companies investing in what are often described as “worthwhile projects” and there is no denying that these are definitely good for the business portfolio. “Tech for good” is a prime example: using technology to improve social challenges.
There’s even the added benefit of the feel-good factor for everyone involved and everyone who benefits! But from a business perspective, it’s not as straightforward as it sounds – choosing to invest in the customer experience over the shareholder return.
In the long run though, the benefits become more obvious – think better brand awareness, a more humane workplace, community / cause support, the list goes on. All of this ultimately contributes to customer acquisition and retention.
Of course, it is natural for every business owner to focus on business results first. I know how easy it is to fall into this trap, so here is the process that I follow.
The first step is to identify the desired outcomes for your business, then put in place possible solutions, then narrow the field until the number of choices works for you across your business..
Then it is about idealizing, prioritizing and following the best ideas until the stage of experimentation. And my biggest tip, always measure against results.
The way to go
I think we all agree that this has been a scary and difficult year for many companies. With this in mind, it will take some courage to go beyond “best practices” and invest resources in experimentation.
However, let’s not forget that our customers are not the same as they used to be. We cannot expect them to want the same things. I have no doubt that there will be industry leaders with strong market positions who don’t need to adapt or change their products or solutions.
But I believe that in many cases, especially when it comes to small players, it will be innovation that sets the winners apart from those who just work.
Published April 1, 2021 – 10:22 UTC