How to use time boxes to design experiments

Posted on October 24, 2022.
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“It’s going to take forever to test this hypothesis.” I hear this a lot from teams we work with. Often the context is complicated, perhaps regulated and is full of organisational hurdles to getting some kind of test out the door. Teams express a desire to design experiments and even to run them but can’t overcome these organisational complexities.

Break down the time frames

One trick we’ve used for years to help teams come up with realistic experiments that are small enough in scope (and risk) to make them realistic is by focusing the team on 3 different time frames.

What could you do if you had a month? And what would you learn?

That’s the first frame. Imagine you had a month to test this hypothesis, what could you get done? Teams will easily come up with everything from customer interviews to building prototypes to sending out a big survey.

What could you do if you had a week? And what would you learn?

We then reduce the window down to a week. Teams still have a relatively easy time coming up with ideas and realising they can learn something meaningful about their hypothesis. They may start looking for internal resources to speak with or to pull some analytics report that may shed light on the idea they’re exploring.

What could you do if you had one day? And what would you learn?

The final time box is one day. Impossible! On its own, I agree. But, presented after working through a month-long and week-long set of options, the one day constraints yields surprisingly effective experimentation tactics. Teams may do a quick survey at lunch with colleagues or they may take a walk down to the brick and mortar location and observe customers in the wild.

Perspective is everything

As a stand-alone activity, designing and running experiments can be daunting for many teams. Even ideas they believe they can execute seem to merit little value on their own. When framed through the lens of decreasing time boxes, teams realise that there is, indeed, some learning activities they can launch and that they will yield useful information to help move them forward.