Why testing and learning quickly is vital for companies in times of crisis

I’ve been working as a Content Marketer at Growth Tribe for four months and I must say since the beginning my mindset in digital marketing has completely changed. I’m still in the process of integrating it entirely, but getting there and it is very stimulating!

In this piece I’d like to talk about something I recently learned thanks to a comprehensive 12-week course I received from our skilled trainers: the “Test & Learn” approach as part of a growth strategy. In other words, the approach to generating continuous business growth!

Of course, we know that the pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on businesses around the world. However, opportunities can always rise amid times of crisis and uncertainty. Several sources (McKinsey, HBR, etc.) even rightly cite the need to take risks, invest and experiment.

Indeed, companies must take advantage of these times to bounce back quickly, even more with a “Test & Learn” approach. Not only do they need it to survive, but also to come out stronger from the crisis.

But how can you get your teams to learn faster so they adapt and keep your organisation growing – even in the most challenging times?

First of all, your company needs to test and learn quickly more than to pivot – here’s why.

The importance of rapid experimentation for any business

According to McKinsey, the weakest point of companies is their slow and costly testing techniques.

Yet, it is essential to implement a method of experimentation and rapid learning in order to resist the frantic currents of change.

In times of crisis, not only does your company need to renew itself as quickly as possible and on a large scale, but it must also invest in a number of resources to create added value.

This is the case of Uber: the pandemic forced the company’s transition to add home grocery delivery via its “Uber Eats” platform which will have allowed small, essential merchants to maintain their activity.

That’s why, in times of significant change, you need to renew yourself regularly and effectively to make the right decisions.

Jeff Bezos said:

“Amazon’s success is very much dependent on how quickly and how many experiments per year, per month, per week and per day.”

He also said it’s okay to be wrong:

“In terms of growth marketing, it’s critical to have a quick decision process. Being wrong is entirely part of rapid experimentation, on the other hand, being too slow may kill your business.”

It doesn’t matter how many rapid experiments you conduct: the more you test, the better you learn and improve your product or your solution.

What matters is whether your concept or idea is viable, hence the importance to reinvent your processes – for instance, via rapid digitisation – to enable an optimal customer experience, maximise the capacity of your teams and available skills.

You could, for example, choose to expand your product or service offering, enhance your portfolio or strengthen your data security.

An approach to extend to all your departments

Often, when companies talk about experimentation, they think of products or technology.

The recent co-branding partnership between Shopify and TikTok illustrates this point well.

The two tech companies tested a number of initiatives before launching the “TikTok channel” integrated with Shopify to allow merchants to promote their products on the social network.

The key to optimal results is to extend the “Test & Learn” approach beyond the product and apply it to your other departments: marketing, growth or even HR.

It is therefore essential to train your executives, marketers, product managers or anyone in contact with your customers in the rapid experimentation process.

Remember that most of these tests will be inconclusive, especially in a startup.

So you’ll have to test, test, and test a LOT before you get satisfactory results.

Be patient.

Generally, during the first 10 tests, you will learn… to master experimentation.

But as time goes on, your efforts will pay off and you’ll start to add value to your business.

According to McKinsey, this year, the issues for most companies are dealing with challenges in terms of procurement, security of their data – especially for Zoom, which has been quick to manage its volume of usage but has encountered security breaches that require immediate attention – or automation of technology to facilitate remote work as the exponential use of Slack has shown.

Pivoting in times of crisis to renew your business

Naturally, the coronavirus crisis has forced hundreds of thousands of startups, companies and associations to review their strategy, whether in France or elsewhere. To renew themselves, they had to act much faster than they would ever imagine.

At the beginning of the pandemic, companies such as Netflix or BrewDog reinvented their business model in the short term to compensate for the shortcomings caused by COVID. The British beer champion has transformed its distillery to make antibacterial gel while the streaming pioneer has created its easy-to-use Netflix Party platform to allow confined people to watch programs remotely and in real time.

Of course, before entering the race to pivoting, certain criteria must be analysed and agreed. Experimenting at scale is a very good way to test the waters and consider an angle of attack to pivot your business.

Business model change, urgent digital adoption, rewriting your short and long term strategies… the list is long.

Whatever happens, your ability to adapt is crucial to your company’s survival, your agility and your propensity to create value – criteria as part of the “growth hacking” strategy.

Here’s a checklist for you to follow when implementing such a strategy:

Set clear objectives and invite your teams to brainstorm

This is a prerequisite. After asking yourself what you want to achieve by setting clear objectives, plan a brainstorming to encourage your teams to exchange as many ideas as possible.

Prioritise the ideas

Once the ideation is complete, select the ideas by importance accordingly to your objectives and communicate them during a so-called “growth sprint”. A meeting dedicated to the implementation of your growth hacking strategy, or before a potential pivot.

Test

Set your experiments into practice using the least amount of resources and time possible and collect enough data to be able to analyse it and come to a conclusion.

Ask yourself: “Is my idea viable?

Analyse

The results of your testing will help you determine whether or not to implement your idea.

Remember that an inconclusive experiment is always positive and that all the data collected is important and can always be activated later.

Once the idea has been vetted, you can decide whether or not to go ahead with it. Otherwise, go back to the beginning (step number 1) for new experiments. After all, that’s what a growth hacking strategy is all about.

Many successful companies have been created through notable crises, whether financial, social or health-related. Launched in 2001, iPod is the product that justified Apple’s comeback just after the Internet bubble burst. In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, Dropbox, which had already launched its cloud storage platform, quickly bounced back with a viral referral program.

Ultimately, what these companies have in common with yours is solving a problem, whatever it may be – from simply wanting to help, to providing a big solution, to modernising – especially when times are tough.

That’s what innovation and pivot are all about.

* * *

Thank you for reading all the way here!

Have you had to pivot this last year?

Do you practice a “Test & Learn” approach in your business?

How many times have you tested new methods before succeeding?

Comment below.

Article an era of desocialised screen junkies

An era of desocialised screen junkies

As you are stuck in your digital comfort zone (so am I), you probably won’t enjoy what follows. To be fair, I hesitated writing this article because it’d make me get on the screen again after a full week spent at working on… writing articles (this is part of what I do for a living). The reason why I write this is because I want to plug off some bad habits for good. I need screen rehab.

Yes, of course, digital devices are handy and transformed our lives in some positive ways (I’ll pass on the zillions of data privacy breaches). However, as I was delightfully remote-working on a sunny terrace this afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice the sadly laughable truth: we are so overwhelmed with screens that we can’t escape from them. They’re everywhere – even dogs have them!

Smartphones, laptops, tablets, smartwatches, headphones… we’re facing a relentless shitstorm of gadgets that clearly replaced our brains and decide for us. Yes, these were invented so we create dopamine enough to never conceive leaving them too far from us.

Humans, it’s time we acknowledge it. It’s too much. It’s time we admit that we are desocialised screen junkies. We’ve enough dopamine overdose. Even Steve Jobs didn’t want his kids to get on screens!

Stats show that it sucks owning a smartphone, too. On average, Brits spend 2 hours and 34 minutes on their smartphone every day. Damn, people, do you realise how serious this is? Every day, we dedicate almost three hours of our precious time to check our notifications when we should probably use this time to do something else. Life is so short!

Although I wonder, is there any way out? How many times did I commute last month without talking to anybody? People don’t talk anymore. Well it’s not as if they were engaging in London transport either, is it? They’re busy, okay? Head down, looking at their devices. Lucky black mirrors, getting all the looks, the smiles, the attention…

If I commute twice a day five days a week, it’s a good forty trips a month with my headphones on that cut me from the outside world. Weren’t we supposedly social animals or did I miss something? Oh my, we’re actually missing out more than we think!

The global digital addiction makes me increasingly nostalgic. I was born in 1990 and I remember being super creative with simple stuff at home and outside. Today I realise more than ever that being raised in the countryside presented some benefits. Even if I couldn’t stand it for too long, it’s quiet and seems like a much healthier option than London.

In my childhood, being from the last generation born before the digital revolution, I could let my mind go. I could set up a friend meeting using a simple landline and stick to the plan. I could use the family computer for one hour every day just to save our Internet connection data. I could call instead of texting, and exchange so much more than emotionless lines. I could write letters to my friends even if I was seeing them the next day in school.

Last fifteen years though, technology made me become someone else. Like everyone, I use my smartphone for everything but the primary function of a phone: voice calls. Silly! I hear everyone say « I hate phone calls ». Duh. And texts are outdated, who uses them today? All of our interactions go through social media. Basically, we wouldn’t know how to use a classic phone anymore. What an irony!

And you’re aware of the impact of blue light on our sleep, right? The blue light emitted from our multiple screens delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock to a later schedule. The consequence is being sleep-deprived or poorly rested with a feeling of jet lag. Zombies!

Obviously, I’m not going to replay the speech about the disastrous impact of the energy being used to run our digital lives on our planet, because you know about that, right? It’s all over the news.

Considering these aspects, I do want to be better at spending time on screens. I know we can’t give up on our screens for good, they’re part of our system. But we can do better for ourselves, our health, our life, our environment.

So here’s a tip I’m willing to test.

As I need my smartphone for work, I can’t plug off during the week and need real-time checks. So starting with weekends, I’d like to build a screen routine. One half-an-hour session in the morning, same in the evening, it’s enough for what we realistically have to do on our phones. Then I can plug off for the rest of the day, relax my brain and stop wondering where is my phone when it’s actually in my hand. Ridiculous! That dopamine vicious circle. Screw being a digital junkie. Hell yes to #screenrehab.

Thanks for reading all the way.

Now I’m interested to hear from your experience, do you feel like we’re overwhelmed with screens too? Have you tried to get off your smartphone for a limited period of time? Did you feel a difference on your mood or your sleep? Share your thoughts in comments below.