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Run experiments

Vikrant Duggal
Vikrant Duggal
• 3 min read
"There are thousands of years of history in which lots and lots of very smart people worked very hard and ran all types of experiments on how to create new businesses and invent new technology. They ran these experiments throughout their entire lives. At some point, somebody put these ideas down in a book. For very little money and a few hours of time, you can learn from someone’s accumulated experience. There is so much more to learn from the past than we often realize. You could productively spend your time reading experiences of great people who have come before and you learn every time.”  –Marc Andreessen

I generally tend to read books in the genres of personal growth, biography and history. Why? I find that it is the fastest way for me to adopt a particular mindset, or learn a particular lesson, fast. There are just too many things I don't know so reading helps me here. So many people have tried so many things and the ones documented in books often tend to do a good job of sharing lessons learned. And while many experiments have been run in the history of the world, there are still yet so many more experiments to run, especially in nuanced contexts.

My desire with this essay is to get you to start running experiments now. Maybe you used to and stopped, or maybe you've wanted to and just don't know how to start. (Hint: There's no wrong way to get going.)

An experiment is the process of testing. For any individual or business looking to grow, they must be testing without judgement. Like a scientist, the idea is to set up a hypothesis. As you start experimenting you may realize you have little hard data. But I find that often we all have a lot of experience that can give us a sense as to where to start. Net net, start somewhere. With your hypothesis in place, you'll now want to determine how best to determine whether you are right or wrong.

One of the biggest struggles I see startup founders and teams having is the willingness to be wrong. When I engage with teams of 40 or more I often find there is a strong desire among individuals on the team to be right. Call is internal politics, call it whatever, they find the idea of running experiments to be tedious as though someone has assigned them boring homework. What this creates is an incredible amount of drag on the growth of the individual, growth of the team, and growth of the business.

How are you going to be fast if you can't even be willing to see where you might have room to adjust? You can't think about it as right and wrong (although you will want to denote whether your experiment succeeded or failed). You want to think about it as purely learning to iterate to set up the next experiment.

Armed with a hypothesis and the mindset to learn, you'll start running experiments. Some will last a few days, some a week, and some longer. The important part is to be as clear as possible and as specific as possible with your words. You want to know that if you're attempting to target a specific group then what are the characteristics of that group? If you leave it vague like, "reach out to interested people" then it's unclear what "interested" meant. If you can provide a somewhat strong definition then it's easier at the end of the experiment to think through what variables that made up "interested" need to be adjusted to achieve a stronger outcome.

If you had a good way of predicting the impact of an initiative then you wouldn't need to run an experiment. Whether you're a solo founder, or a member of a growing startup, whether you're running a product-led growth initiatives, or a top-down enterprise sales process, it will benefit you to think about your business and all the work streams within them as micro experiments.

Experiments in startups are generally associated with growth hacking and a critical component of most unicorn startups is the speed at which they learn. And this learning can generally be tied to smart experimentation models.

My guidance? Run experiments.