Whilst innovation is something that is on the minds of many an executive, I question how much of that is lip service, with the creation of a plethora of ideas that seldom get actioned.

Innovation should not be regarded as an intellectual exercise and therefore has little value unless the ideas that are generated are tested out in the marketplace.  Only then can you really learn if they have merit or not.

Having a culture of experimentation is therefore a fundamental part of being innovative, as you can then test out your ideas in a low cost way to explore their effectiveness in the ‘wild’.

MIT’s Michael Scrage has identified ten things you need to consider when attempting to sculpt your own culture of experimentation.

  1. Understand why you’re doing it – before you begin experimenting you should have a firm insight into just why you’re doing it, and your rationale should be strong enough to entice people from across the organization to rally behind you
  2. Decide what level of support you need – do you need (or even want) support from senior executives?  You ideally want your experiments to have the biggest impact in the shortest time, so try experimenting in areas that already have strong executive support
  3. Recruit a cheerleader – whatever your experiment, it always helps to have someone reasonably high that can support your project and cut through the organizational fluff
  4. Don’t ask for money – your experiment should be more about human capital than financial capital.  By all means ask for people to help you or some facilities to support you, but don’t ask for cash
  5. Define the scope – as with any new project, it’s crucial that you define what it is you want to achieve, and your experiment is no different
  6. Select your deadline – you will need focus to succeed, so ensure you select a deadline that is close at hand, and stick to it
  7. Book time for the final presentation – after your deadline you’ll need to present your findings to the executive team.  Make sure you have a time booked in and committed to from the executives concerned
  8. Secure access to the team – most experiments will involve a team of people, so make sure you have their time and energy committed to your experiment before you start as it will live and die by their efforts
  9. Kick things off – once you’ve picked and secured your team/s you set the project under way, clarify any questions regarding the project and get moving
  10. Launch – with minimal resources, it kind of forces you to be a bit rough and ready with your approach, but it also predicates intense discipline in how you behave

The aim here isn’t to provide perfect solutions but to test your thinking out in a way that provides insights that are good enough to act upon.  Hopefully these ten steps will help you along the way.

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