November 27, 2012
Watching Forrester Research Principal Analyst Joe Stanhope discuss the keys to starting a website testing initiative (check out the video below) got me thinking about what stops innovation in most companies.
Innovation dies within many organizations when stakeholders don’t have the ability to understand how or even if their ideas will impact the business. And that’s not one person’s fault in particular, or even one department’s fault.
For most organizations, there’s one path for every idea. Typically, that’s IT. For instance, an employee might have a great idea to test on the website, but if it gets ranked lower in priority than other IT-intensive initiatives—like a replatforming project or launching a new brand—the idea might not go live for months, if at all.
When it takes that much time and effort to launch even one test, employees stop suggesting new ideas, and business proceeds as usual. Nobody tests their assumptions and everyone keeps doing exactly what they have always done.
My favorite analogy for this is the story about a family getting ready to make the Christmas ham. Every year, the mother cuts the ends off of the Christmas ham, puts it in the oven, and cooks it. One year, her son asks, “Wait, why do you cut the ends off of the ham?” And she answers, “Well, that’s the way my mom always did it.”
So the son calls up his grandmother, and asks the same question. She says “Well, that’s how my grandmother always did it.” Not satisfied with that answer, the son calls up his great grandmother and asks the same question: “Why did you always cut the ends off of the Christmas ham?”
And the great grandmother replies “Well, that’s the way I always did it because the pan I had wasn’t big enough for the ham.” So for years, this family had been throwing away perfectly good ham, until someone challenged that assumption and asked why.
That’s what happens inside marketing and sales organizations... without the ham.
Someone might have a great idea about how to change a landing page, but everyone in the room will say, “Well, that’s great, but you can’t touch landing pages because that’s not your system.” Pretty soon, everyone just stops having ideas.
Without the ability to remove constraints from testing and optimization, employees can’t be creative. They cannot innovate, and they cannot discover exactly what visitors and customer want during their online experience with your brand.
Creating a successful website testing initiative means you have the tools and the creative freedom to try and do better.
Employees have to be allowed to question processes, test their ideas, and try to make any part of the business better. If they can’t, the entire organization is throwing away perfectly good ham.