A culture of experimentation is the key to survival

Hanno Nevanlinna • Director of Culture, Service Innovation Coach

Digitalization will separate the winners from the losers. How will you know which group you’re in? How can you help your team win?

Everything happens fast in the digital world. Slow companies that concentrate on internal processes, spend their energy planning things instead of doing them and neglect customer needs will lose out.

A culture of bold experimentation needs to replace the old ways. It’s time to roll up our sleeves. Let's see what works and doesn’t by actually doing things. Experiments should be carried out quickly and with real customers. Focus must shift from planning to doing.

New services and business models are revolutionizing markets at an unheard of pace. Agile startups have an advantage over established companies. How can a traditional corporation be as flexible and fast as a startup, while fully exploiting its established market position and all its knowledge capital?

Companies must experiment more. An experiment that fails to deliver the expected result should never be dismissed as a failure. Experimentation should be rewarded, even when it doesn’t result in success. The problem with bonus systems is that generally they only reward success within predetermined parameters.

Companies must both persevere and move fast. In the digital world you’re always aiming at a moving target - technology and human behavior can undergo radical changes in a matter of months. Speed must be combined with long-term research and development. Building a digital service is nothing like building a factory. A service is developed right up until the day it's closed.

Companies need to come to grips with the fact that digitalization changes organizations and roles on all levels. Building a service becomes a dialog with the client and product developers, too, must meet with customers and end-users to fully understand their needs. Salespeople must understand the technology in question and tech people have a grasp of the business logic for the service they are building.  

A company must have the courage to act like a revolutionary - experiment, make mistakes and turn their business upside down. If the goal is to digitize the company’s business, never send the project team off with “do whatever you want as long as you don’t get in the way of real business” ringing in their ears. If a digital project can potentially have an impact on your current margins, one of your competitors will come along and do it if you don’t. Sooner or later. It’s guaranteed.

A short test to determine whether your company is ready for the digital future:

  • When was the last time you tried something new?
  • At Supercell you get champagne for failed experiments and beer for successful ones. How does this work at your firm?
  • Does the project budget allow for an iterative approach to reaching the goal?
  • Are you in love with your own product or with solving the customer’s problem?
  • Is employee satisfaction at your company on an upward trajectory?
  • Is the whole company on board for digitalization?
  • Does your CEO understand the digital transformation? Or is he or she too busy making sure people don’t use Facebook during working hours?

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