How to Build a Business Culture of Learning in Five Steps
The most successful companies in the world establish cultures of learning. What do I mean?
Science Projects and Learning
It's simple. Just apply what you learned during your middle school science project. As you started your science project, your teacher had you start with a few questions and a hypothesis—an educated guess. Your hypothesis would be your starting point for further investigation. Then you moved to the next step which was conducting simple experiments to test your hypothesis. This was the fun part. If your experiment was set up correctly using the scientific method and statistics, you would arrive at validated learnings. Just like science projects, you can set up and conduct daily business experiments in every department to quickly solve problems, remove road blocks, learn more about customers, and improve business processes—overall customer experience.
5 Steps to Build a Business Culture of Learning
Below are five simple steps to build a culture of learning that will help your employees conduct daily experiments, validate learnings, and deliver improved results.
Step 1 - Get Every Department and Employee Focused on Learning
Start by having each department and employee focus on learning. Each department should have questions they want to answer and should be conducting daily experiments to validate these questions. The learnings from these questions will be critical as you build and scale your business.
Building business questions or hypotheses shouldn't be hard. Think about all the I wonder if...questions you want to answer about your business. Questions like, I wonder if a customer will buy this? I wonder if a current customer will pay for our new service? I wonder if a customer will find value with this new product feature? I wonder if we would increase conversions if we changed our online sign up process? The list can go on and on. This is the fun part.
Step 2 - Build Questions, Set Up Hypotheses, and Conduct Experiments
Have each department build a list of questions they want to answer. Once you have a nice list, prioritize the questions in order of business impact. Feel free to share your questions with other departments. Sharing your questions with other departments will help provide feedback, prioritization, and alignment. Now, you have a strong list of questions—build your hypotheses and conduct your experiments.
Here is an example of a business hypothesis: If we combine step two and three of the sign up process, we should see the conversion rate of our online form increase.
As you build your experiments to answer questions and validate hypotheses, make sure you have a baseline of your current results. A baseline of your current results will be your control (what you're testing against). Knowing the control baseline will be critical to see if your experiment is working. Don't test to many variables at once. Remember, your goal is to answer questions and validate learnings. As you do this, you will learn quickly, remove roadblocks, and drive results.
Step 3 - Collect and Analyze the Data
As you're conducting experiments, make sure that you have a centralized location to store the results. This could be a Google spreadsheet, document, database, or other form of data collection. The data collection tool should be determined by the type of test you're running.
Once you have enough data collected to make the experiment statistically sound, you can start to analyze the data. This is where you will answer questions and uncover real validated learnings. The outcome of this stage should prove or disprove your hypothesis. You should be able to draw simple conclusions from your analysis that drive actionable next steps.
Every department leader should be held accountability to reporting on learnings. These learnings should be as important as many of your key performance indicators. I've seen companies learn something really important and forget to really learn it, so they make the same costly mistake over and over.
To avoid this mistake, create a centralized learning document that should be reviewed on a regularly basis. Google docs work for me.
Step 4 - Communicate Your Results
Once you've arrived at the validated learnings, be sure to communicate your results in a clear, concise, and actionable way.
Here is an example of a validated learning: We combined step two and three of the sign up process and saw a 3.6% increase in conversions of our online form. Because of this successful experiment we pushed the new online form live on Tuesday, September X, 20XX at 2:35 a.m.
Like I mentioned above, the learnings should be stored in a central location to be easily consumed by others in the department and across the company. Once you create this process and establish a culture of learning, you'll be surprised by the positive results and learnings. It will be your favorite insights about your business.
Step 5 - Apply Your Learnings and Test Again
Apply the validated learnings from each department. There will be things you continue to do and things you will stop doing, but that's the benefit of creating a culture of learning. Failing fast and learning quickly will become a big competitive advantage that will drive positive customer experiences, improve profitability, and increase revenue. Start now and build a business culture of learning. The best companies in the world are already doing it.