How Much Do You Experiment?

Love, love, love this article in Fast Company about 37 Signals. If you aren’t familiar with them, you may be with their popular project management software Base Camp.

37 Signals CEO Jason Freid discusses how his company has become “somewhat of a laboratory for innovative workplace practices.” Mundane things like a 4-day work week in the summer. His rationale? “There’s a shortage of talent out there, and if there’s a shortage of resources, you want to conserve those resources.” For those environmentalists reading, he likens it to a “peak people theory”.

How much experimentation goes on in your organization? Unfortunately, far too many HR and legal departments have gone the opposite direction and are focusing far more on risk avoidance than anything else.

Here is a personal experience in my company, We are a software company that hires a lot of very bright, very motivated and very … um … demanding employees. They can be … they are very smart and very motivated. We really try and cut against the grain of traditional HR practices as much as possible. Some experiments work and some don’t. When we began, we refused to put a vacation policy in place. Our

rational was if you need a day or week off, take it off. Of course, this requires your manager’s approval and you must be meeting your goals. It’s all about personal responsibility and clear accountability / performance. We hire adults, entrust them with millions of dollars in client relationships and try to treat them accordingly.

We get stung by this policy from time to time. Even HR technology companies can make a bad hire every once in a while. But, the good far outweighs the bad and the experiment paid off. Like I said, not experiments have worked as well (more on that in another post).

How can you experiment? When was the last time you focused on the upside and ignored the risk in eliminating an old-fashioned process or launched a new, slightly outlandish initiative.

We all need to experiment more … isn’t that really where the fun is?


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