Stefan Thomke of Harvard Business School has written a definitive book on the importance of experimentation. "Experimentation Matters" argues that every company’s ability to innovate depends on a series of experiments (successful or not), that help create new products and services or improve old ones. That period between the earliest point in the design cycle and the final release should be filled with experimentation, failure, analysis, and yet another round of experimentation. “Lather, rinse, repeat,” Thomke says. Unfortunately, uncertainty often causes the most able innovators to bypass the experimental stage.
In his book, Thomke outlines six principles companies can follow to unlock their innovative potential.
- Anticipate and Exploit Early Information Through ‘Front-Loaded’ Innovation Processes
- Experiment Frequently but Do Not Overload Your Organization.
- Integrate New and Traditional Technologies to Unlock Performance.
- Organize for Rapid Experimentation.
- Fail Early and Often but Avoid ‘Mistakes’.
- Manage Projects as Experiments.
Thomke further explores what would happen if the principles outlined above were used beyond the confines of the individual organization. For instance, in the state of Rhode Island, innovators are collaboratively leveraging the state's compact geography, economic and demographic diversity and close-knit networks to quickly and cost-effectively test new business models through a real-world experimentation lab.