If at first you don’t succeed: the importance of embracing experimentation

  • Posted 1 year ago
  • 3 min read

If failure is going to happen, it better happen fast! That’s the creed of most business owners and executives. However sage this advice may be, there are times when this guiding principle can deprive businesses of valuable experience and insight to find the right strategy, especially in such a hands-on area as IT.

For IT departments it is sensible to experiment with the technology they consider deploying in their organisation. By testing new technology in the field, IT managers are able to answer a number of important practical questions that wouldn’t be addressed otherwise. What innovations will benefit business operators the most in terms of operations? Which of these will provide the best user experience? The answers to these questions can be crucial for increasing productivity.

To be effective this approach needs time and the real work is often to convince management and staff to embrace the risk of experimenting with new tech. Management is naturally averse to disruption and most CEOs would prefer stability of operations and reliability of output over experimenting with new processes. In addition, if employees are comfortable with existing processes, it is hard to overcome complacency and convince staff that change can be a good thing.

However understandable, these attitudes slow down change and hamper IT innovation. For CIOs, a real shot at renewing business from the inside is influencing the way business thinks about change by getting both decision-makers and colleagues on board with new or experimental solutions. Firstly, nurture relationships with internal influencers. If there’s a brilliant idea to sell, someone on the Board of Directors or head of operations will need to buy into it. Whatever the proposal, most people are more receptive to suggestions if ideas aren’t sprung on them out of the blue.

The best way for a CIO to convince their organisation of a project they feel strongly about is to make others part of this endeavour. Instead of experimenting with tech under lock and key, CIOs should get their organisation involved at an early stage.

Secondly, aim to involve staff early in the testing process. The best way for a CIO to convince their organisation of a project they feel strongly about is to make others part of their endeavour, they certainly won’t buy into it if they haven’t had a chance to really understand it. By allowing time to get acquainted with new technology before it is formally implemented, members of staff can experience the benefits first hand. For a CIO, this is the easiest way to make a case for a passion project and supporting voices from staff will be much more convincing than charts or spreadsheets.

Thirdly, treat each experiment as a lesson gained for the business. Testing new technology in a closed environment doesn’t necessary reveal valuable insights. Having new tech tested by employees is going to be more time consuming, but it will deliver much more actionable information about the organisation and its potential to improve.

Experimenting with new tech is a huge opportunity for business, but naturally it comes with a risk: the possibility of failure is part of the deal. In that case, IT leaders should learn their lesson and – in true entrepreneurial spirit - move on. Even if reaching a new solution means failing more than once.