Good Questions: How to start with experimenting

A mini-series by Katie Stotter, Strategy Lead

Asking good questions, often, can help you find value, keep things moving, gain alignment, and so much more. Good questions create clarity, challenge assumptions, and allow teams to test the boundaries of a piece of work. In this short series, we share our experience of how to ask the right questions and give you the confidence to be curious and provocative to get results.

In the early stages of exploring a complex problem, we don’t know what we don’t know. Good experiments help us arrive at better questions, and the right questions to ask at the right time.

At &us, we take an experimental approach to all of our work. This doesn’t mean coming up with mad ideas and running wild with the most exciting one! It’s actually a practical approach that helps us to start small, and learn as we go. 

Before getting into good questions to help you start experimenting, it’s a good idea to get into the right mindset. Be open, be playful with ideas, and don’t aim for perfection. You won’t get it right the first time. 

Ready? Ok, let’s go…

Question 1: What’s our question?

I know, we’re one question in and it’s all started out a bit meta, but hang in there. Experimentation works best when we’re trying to answer a question. And people respond best to questions when they’re interesting! Be playful and provocative. Rather than asking “why aren’t people buying our stuff?”, try asking “why don’t people like us?”. Rather than asking “how might we hold on to our market leader position?” try asking “why do people think we’re the best at what we do?”. 

Question 2: What’s our hunch?

You probably already have some idea of how to answer that question, so you’ll need to make that hunch testable. We do this by creating a hypothesis. A hypothesis says, “I think by doing this, it will cause this effect.” Based on your results, you should be able to say “this is true” or “this is false.” It’s used as a starting point for further investigation. 

Question 3: How might we learn if our hypothesis is correct?

Here’s the question that helps you craft the experiment. Keep it small, practical, cheap, fast, and valuable. Define what you’ll do, who you’ll test with, and for how long. Don’t forget to think about how you’ll measure your results and how you’ll communicate about them.

Question 4: Can we make the experiment smaller?

Take a look back at what you answered in the previous question, and be honest – how might you make it 50% cheaper / smaller / faster? 

Question 5: How might we build on our learnings? 

Once you’ve completed your experiment, make sure you spend some time with the results and understand how you might use them to iterate your idea. Once you’ve done that, start your next experiment!

Experimentation is a shortcut to innovation and helps us circumvent politics and big discussions that kill small ideas. Encourage everyone in your business to ask questions, and ask how they can be answering them. You can learn more about our approach to experimentation in our Experiment Guide.

We love experiments. If you’re interested in how taking an experimental approach can get you to better ideas faster, get in touch, we’d love to help!