Crowdsourcing Mistakes: Trusting Employees Improves Policy Decisions

The practice of conducting A/B tests—that is, gathering data on which of two options works better—is how Amazon and Google have been able to optimize their services so rapidly. Finding innovations through experiments at tech companies is now standard practice. So, why don’t most organizations do this when it comes to managing people?

One innovative company in the pharmaceutical industry, Express Scripts, has been experimenting with an innovative approach to managing its employees by treating every decision as a data collection opportunity.

Rather than argue that some policy is “right” or “wrong,” they instead identify the goal they’re seeking and design a small-scale experiment to see if the policy moves them toward this objective. Notably, this is now done not only for production and service delivery, but for internal policies that affect the workplace environment—policies that are meant to spur higher productivity, greater employee engagement and enhanced interpersonal trust.

Essentially, the company learns fast by viewing how its trusted employees react collectively to human resources policy changes, and treating failures as an opportunity to learn and improve. Think of it as the crowdsourcing of mistakes in order to find improvements.

At your next all-hands meeting, trying soliciting ideas for A/B experiments. Then, run one and see what your organization learns.

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