This sponsored post is produced in partnership with Optimizely.

Picture a world without the scientific method. There would be no clinical trials, medical journals, or SpaceX rocket test flights. Without the ability to run experiments, the pace of innovation would slow, new discoveries would be inconsistent, lacking clear data to support them.

Experimentation is the process that has guided how all of human knowledge has been discovered and documented, reinforced, and shared. Why wouldn’t you apply the same method to growing your business, learning from your customers, and making decisions with confidence?

When you experiment, you can unlock the creativity of your organization and put ideas from any employee to the test. Where can you experiment? Anywhere — from your website and mobile applications to the search algorithms, pricing, and user interfaces your customers interact with — and anyone, from marketing and product through to your development teams – can run those experiments.

Without executive support, however, the process of experimentation is limited in its potential. Experimentation across a business requires a clear vision, shared buy-in, and concrete steps for enabling the organization to run experiments, no matter what an individual employee’s business objective or technical ability.

Creating a company-wide culture of experimentation

Executives, understandably, want to impart their years of experience and decision-making skills as part of their daily management of the company. But when your company defers all final decisions to its upper management, it diminishes the possibility of using experiment-driven methodology to drive decisions at all levels. Once data and empirical testing are downplayed when making decisions, the vitality of the enterprise becomes atrophied — the C-suite begins to doubt the results of data-driven research in favor of “tried-and-true” solutions that worked in the past. And as we know, a surprise success can rarely be repeated.

Failing to elevate experimentation to the C-level virtually ensures that the process will remain tactical rather than strategic. Without investment from both upper-level and mid-level employees, optimization by individual departments also localizes failure to lower-level employees, who will lose their nerve to experiment and lock into a cycle of fear-of-failure.

To create a culture of experimentation, your company needs to make it easy for anyone to contribute ideas, to focus on ideas and changes that can be tested empirically and tracked with data. This can take the form of a company-wide “new ideas” competition, or just a company culture that emphasizes cross-departmental idea sharing and collaboration. The idea is to make sure that everyone at all levels of the company has a stake in the results of these changes, with easy access to the tools needed to contribute ideas that can be tested and evaluated with data and evidence.

How to get your C-Level Execs (and everyone else) on board

Change is difficult no matter who you are. It’s a hard sell when you’re asking executives to make changes that will alter the fundamental makeup of your company.

Executives who might be reticent to implement large-scale procedural and product changes can be brought on board with those old placating words we remember from the Emergency Broadcast System: “This Is Only An Experiment.”

Optimizely CEO and Founder Dan Siroker’s early mentor gave him some of the best advice to bring the higher-ups into the fold: “The key phrase,” Siroker says,” was to say, ‘Let’s just run an experiment.’ In that context, the idea became an irresistible investigation into whether it would be worth their time and money — not a hard-and-fast decision of whether to make a permanent change.”

Make it easy to contribute ideas

A company-wide culture of experimentation is not the same thing as the installation of the world’s largest employee suggestion box. It needs to be implemented in a way that makes submission of ideas intuitive, but also favors ideas that can be tested with data or analysis.

Optimizely suggests creating a simple, lightweight form to capture ideas and turning the results into a contest. When creating the form, it’s very important to evaluate both the quality and testability of the ideas.

Collaboration amongst the C-suite will also produce different benefits for each member, and show different issues that can be improved. By opening up optimization to leaders with different goals in mind, existing problems can be solved with unexpected solutions.

CFOs can use company-wide optimization to unify the entire C-suite around a consistent (and proven) set of metrics and KPIs; bringing the head of sales into the conversation can apply rigorous experimentation to generate higher quantities of high-quality leads with higher conversion rates.

The recent launch of the new Optimizely X platform is an intuitive introduction to the notion of “experimentation everywhere.” With this platform, users can not only experiment on what customers see on a website, but also with what they experience, such as the order of search results, product and content recommendations, new mobile features, and pricing changes to improve customer interactions and grow revenue.
A new frontier for experimentation
Companies that weave optimization and experimentation into their business culture at all levels will reap the benefits. Experimentation-driven decision-making delivers the best and most innovative results when combined with the innate knowledge and experience that C-level executives naturally bring to the table.

To learn more about the power of experimenting everywhere at your organization, tune into the keynote from Optimizely’s Opticom conference.  

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