“The very basis of creative work is irreverence. The very basis of creative work is bold experimentation. There has never been a creator of lasting importance who has not also been an innovator”– Eric Temple Bell
Most of us are afraid to make decisions as we dread that making a wrong choice can result in failure. This thought often holds us back from reaching our full potential as we are fear stepping out of our comfort zones. Experimental mindset is all about making life an experiment. This means looking at problems as opportunities to explore using a rational process to control decisions and choices. This will help us cope with challenges and uncertainty both at work and life.
We face different kind of uncertainties at work every day. When we are trying to create a new product feature or a new customer experience or something related to R&D there is always risk involved. There’s no way to tell what would work and what would not work. All we have to do is consistently experiment. Constant experimentation is the only way to identify what will actually produce the result that we desire. The best way to learn things is just by diving in and giving it a try.
I would like to share a fascinating story here that I originally heard in a podcast. A Microsoft employee who was working on their search engine Bing had an idea about changing the way the headline of an advertisement appeared on the search engine. His idea was that by moving some of the subtext to the headline will make the headline look longer and that could possibly make an impact on the user engagement. This employee went to his manager with his idea but the manager wasn’t quite sure if this change would lead to any impact on user engagement. The manager was very skeptical about the idea and was delaying to give approval for six whole months. One fine day the engineer got impatient and just decided to go ahead with it and launched the new idea. You know what happened? This small change increased their revenue by 12 percent.
What do you think made the difference here? Well, the difference is the ability of the engineer to take a leap of courage and launch the experiment and then find out if his idea would work or not. If the engineer had never launched the experiment, they would have never known that a small change could lead to a massive impact on revenue.
If we look at some of the compositions from Beethoven and Bach, even though they were eminent creators they really had very little ability to predict whether their next output would be a smashing success or total failure. If we look at top experiment driven companies like Amazon they run thousands of experiments every year but their success rate is less than 50%. So not all experiments will result in success, most of them will result in failures.
And failures are necessary. Failures are part of the innovation process. It’s high time that we stop associating the word failure with something negative. When you run an experiment you might fail the first time but then it will help you refine your experiment again and again and again. During the whole process you get to build on your ideas and there is a lot of learning going on each time you fail. We will learn the most from what doesn’t go well.
Every experiment teaches us something new, and every new lesson we learn increases our capability to accomplish great things. Experimentation is essential in living a satisfying, productive and fulfilling life. The more we experiment, the more we learn, and the more we will achieve so don’t fear to experiment with things in life. I would like to conclude with quote of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not be timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.”