A causal diagram demonstrating how strategy, decisions and state of the system are always developing and influenced by forces extrinsic to the company
System Dynamics: System thinking and modeling for a complex world. Model by James Paine, MIT

Strategy needs experimentation

A strategy is a theory about what the organization assumes the world looks like, which influence it thinks it can have on it leading to which hypothesized outcomes.

Nobody knows the answer to any of these questions which are most likely multiple and changing all the time (1).

One way to set strategy is open, broad statements that can fit a lot of change in them, another is experimentation.

With experimentation the strategy becomes active. It’s not a stone tablet the company chisels out once a year and has to commit to no matter how inaccurate or unimportant it might become.

Active means that it wants to learn and it pushes the organization to need to learn.

As an example: by combining the lean startup method (2) with riskiest assumptions testing (3) and business experimentation (4) the strategy can become living and inspiring (read more here (5) and here (6)). Not something to be measured against at the end of journey, but something to keep teams at speed, direction and engaged.

A strategy is not only there to make us goal oriented and focused, it’s there to energize and inspire new opportunities and ideas.

An active strategy that wants to learn never has to be 100% perfect. Because the immediate outcome of learning is change (if we don’t commit to what we learn we will only feel misguided). And so the mindset shifts from thinking you have to commit to the strategy for a year and spending 110% effort to build over-confidence (only to see the world change the next Monday), to an active learning strategy where your goal is to stay curious. To create a good enough springboard (decreasing the startup cost of strategy), leap into the learning journey and keep discovering.

Who said strategy had to be stale, broad and fixed? Why do we have to make strategy into a ceremony, an event? Why can’t strategy be a way-of-working? And why can’t continuous learning and experimentation fuel our strategy and keep the team energized and led by a strategy that is always as fresh as newly baked bread?



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Helge Tennø

Helge Tennø

Founder and Principal at Jokull AS