I Know How to Run Experiments, Now What (Part 3)

DSC_6626.jpg  It has always excited me to see so many great opportunities for intrapreneurs to change the culture inside their enterprises!   But with any new skill you need to develop the ability to see patterns and understand the best areas to apply those new skills.   I’m doing my best to provide some shortcuts for you.  Here we are at part 3 of those shortcuts, but here are part 1 and part 2 in case you missed them.

Our employees could use a morale boost

Whether it comes up as a result of your annual employee survey, skip level sessions or some other interaction, there are always situations where morale gets a bit low.  Often times this is because we feel powerless as employees.  Things move, shift and get ripped out from under us.   Other times we need a pick me up because we are drinking from the fire-hose and not feeling like we’re making great progress at understanding a new situation.

Regardless of what this looks like in your area you can usually find opportunities to get that boost through rapid experimentation.   I would recommend that you get some customer empathy and a rough understanding of the reasons your team / organization is down in the dumps.

Once you have some ideas as to what problems exist (based on what employees say), you can then pull the team together for a quick brainstorming session.   Ask the team something like “In what ways might we fix this problem ______ we identified?”.  Come up with at least 50 possible solutions for the problem and then prioritize the list based on whatever criteria are most important to your organization.

Now that you have a list of possible solutions to the problem, you can begin experimenting.  You will quickly start seeing gaps between what employees said was important to them and how they behave.   This will help you continue to tweak and re-prioritize your ideas list until you find a few different solutions for the different segments of employees that have the problem(s) you identified.

Coincidentally, this process is almost exactly the same as the process you follow to identify and build a new product based on customer needs.


Our customers keep asking for features that they don’t use

You’ve never had this issue with your customers, right?   Customers always use what they ask for!  Right…..  (heavy sarcasm here).  Anyway, the best way to deal with this situation is to utilize your rapid experimentation skills.   Instead of building the feature the customers ask for you should come up with some creative experiments to make it appear that the feature exists and see how many of the customers attempt to use it.

For example:  You are part of the HR Learning and Development team.  You hear from senior leaders in multiple businesses that they would like a class about ethics.  Rather than building the entire class or purchasing it from an external vendor, you add the course and description to your internal learning management system (LMS) with a class date a few months out and a decent price tag.   You begin to market the class back to the business units and ask them to register for the class.

This demand test should QUICKLY show you whether there is real demand for the course inside your organization and how important the class really is (high price).  You can follow up with everyone afterward to determine why they did or did not sign up for the course.   These insights will quickly tell you exactly what the requirements for the class should be, how you should price it and what pieces are most important to your employees (customers).

This same scenario happens very frequently in product teams as well, so be on the look-out!


We’re getting ready to acquire a competitor

This is one of my favorite scenarios to apply lean startup principles and rapid experimentation skills.   As enterprises we tend to be GREAT and doing due diligence for M & A.  We verify financials, evaluate employees for cultural fit, evaluate technology and integration requirements, etc.   In many cases acquisitions are done to acquire technology, customers and talent.  There are MANY assumptions baked into this process, but one of the biggest ones that doesn’t get tested much is the customers.

We make assumptions that our existing customers are likely to purchase the new product or vice versa.  We believe we will be able to cross-sell and up-sell both sets of customers.  We believe it will be a 1+1=3 situation.  If there wasn’t an ROI in this area, why even consider the acquisition?

You need to PROVE that the two customer bases are complimentary.   Run some experiments that show this to be true during your due diligence process.  It’s not that difficult to get some of the people from your sales team to jump in and try to conduct some of this selling, right?   Will your existing customers pay the same prices or will they expect some sort of bundling discount?   Does it improve or diminish their experience and lifetime value?

You need to have the answers to as many of these questions as possible before you pull the trigger.


What situations have you uncovered where you were able to experiment quickly to reduce risk?   Please share in the comments below.