Jill Jenkinson September 12 2023

Fearless experimentation versus sharp decisions

Research and the insight it creates can play a role in provoking our thinking, challenging our assumptions, and bluntly breaking some of our ingrained patterns of behaviour which might no longer serve us well. The research we undertook, focusing on organisations who grew faster and travelled further than others in their sector or space has certainly given that "jolt" to many clients we work with.

The research identified, not a magic set of conditions we should all strive to recreate but rather, a set of tensions we should all seek to balance as leaders and within our cultures. The third tension building on fix the vision, flex the journey, and balancing productive paranoia with courageous conviction explores the balance between fearless experimentation and sharp decisions.

Organisations who navigate this balance experiment hard, without constraints, early qualification, or discounting. To feed the process, they employ techniques which force them outside and beyond our human inclination to seek patterns, drawing on past experiences and rebadge tried and tested. In action it’s almost like going back to a time when anything seemed possible, our nine-year-old selves. When it wasn’t necessary to apply logic or make things practical. We could travel to the moon in rockets made of toilet roll or fairy liquid bottles and everything was possible.

As we get older, we don’t do this naturally or instinctively, so we need to find conditions, techniques, and even environments where we force our acquired learning and rational to fall away. The research however doesn’t advocate that this process will be enough because the tension hits when suddenly creative ideas need to be made relevant. Novelty needs to turn into something that not only solves the problem but is possible, affordable, and will work.

Organisations show their true colours at this critical juncture – when experimentation needs to convert to adoption and action. At this point, the best has clean, sharp processes to inform decision making. They kill ideas once and for all, are clear about a solution’s ability to solve the underlying problem and get the right few people involved. Critically this clean, sharp focus translates into the evolution building in data or evidence measures and decisions that focus on those, cutting down on the complexity of stakeholder management and lightening up the organisations ability to move and develop at pace. Again, as with all the tensions, the criticality is the point at which to tip from experimentation into decisions and action. At what point is the real problem identified and addressed? Has everybody and every idea been heard? Is this new unchartered territory, or just a rehash, return, or re-invention?


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