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Experimenter’s Mindset

Tips & Tools

I often say there are three powerful things that every intrapreneur needs to succeed.

The first is the Experimenter’s Mindset: Curiosity, open-mindedness, and a willingness to test things out, fail, iterate and adapt.

At its core, the Experimenter’s Mindset is about LEARNING.

Learning is key for navigating change and uncertainty successfully.

It’s critical for making change that sticks.

Four Questions

One practice
 for creating this mindset is asking these four questions (in this order) after trying something for the first time; at the end of an event; following the launch of a new initiative, product or service; or as part of a weekly team check in.

  1. What did we learn?
  1. What did we do/how did we adapt because of what we learned?
  1. What did we accomplish or achieve? What were the results?
  1. What recommendations do you have for next time based on what we learned?
Why is the order of these questions so important? Because most of us (especially hard-driving leaders and Type A personalities), start with question #3. And if the results don’t meet expectations, then the discussion often turns quickly to blame or excuses. This sets up an us-versus-them dynamic and people become defensive.

When we start with question #1, we celebrate and elevate the lessons. When we start with #3, we tend to over-emphasize results at the expense of innovation, learning and risk taking.

Try out these four questions – in this order – and see what happens.

3-Phase Reflection

Why THREE phases? Because we see the experience from a different perspective each time, which means we’ll also see different lessons.

So how does it work?

I use this process following significant activities/events or “firsts” (like a big media interview, your first town hall meeting as CEO, board meetings, your organization’s annual conference or big fundraising event, producing a major report, etc.).

prompts are the same for each phase:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go so well or where can we improve?
  • Ideas for next time/similar projects or events?
Phase 1: Immediately after (usually within 12 hours of completing)

  • Reflect alone and ask others involved to do the same. I recommend no more than 20 minutes.
  • In this phase, I usually have a long list of what didn’t go so well.

Phase 2: 24 hours later

  • Reflect alone and ask others involved to do the same. Again, invest another 15-20 minutes.
  • In this phase, I usually have enough distance to see more solutions for what didn’t go well and I’m able to add more to the “what worked” list.

Phase 3: 1-2 weeks later

  • Reflect with others. I recommend 30-45 minutes for this group debrief, depending on the size of the group.
  • Different team members notice different things and the variety of perspectives add richness to the reflection.

Get started on this 3-Phase Reflection Process or try out the Four Questions. I’d love to hear what you learn!

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