Experimenting inside your company is not only about validating product assumptions. It's not only about collecting some solid market research. It's also about generating strong story material.
Stories are how you sell your ideas. Stories are how you can make other people see the world the way you see it. Stories make other people walk the same path with you and arrive at the same destination.
When we listen to stories, we enter fictional worlds where we process information in a different way (this is according to the research done by psychologists Melanie Green and Tim Brock). We start caring less about inconsistencies. We start caring more about people and events. We become emotionally invested.
Stories beat PowerPoint presentations and Excel sheets hands down because those things don't move you to action. You have to first be emotionally moved before you can take any real action. And the more absorbed you are in a story, the more emotionally moved you are. The story changes you.
The value of a great story is clear. But great stories aren't just waiting to be written down. They first need to be lived.
Couple of months ago I was listening to Elisa's research manager Esko Kurvinen (Elisa is a Finnish telecommunications company with roughly 5000 employees) talk about how the company's e-book service got the internal resources it needed to grow from an idea into a real service.
It was a company-wide "experimentation day". Every Elisa employee got to go out of the office and just interact with customers and users without caring too much about brand strategies or corporate red tape.
One group went to a large shopping center and started pre-selling the non-existent e-book service. None of them had any real sales training. But they still managed to get almost 50 people give them their credit card numbers.
Later when they handed the list of credit cards to company executives and told them the shopping center story, the executives were moved emotionally. The executives took action. Things started happening. The e-book project got the resources it needed.
Some people might use this story as an example of market validation. It was an experiment to see if people would pay for an e-book service. Maybe the executives saw the experiment as a successful market test and that's why they started to make things happen inside Elisa.
But is fifty credit card numbers enough validation to convince the C-level executives inside your company? As a startup, can you really get seed funding with just fifty customer orders?
This is not about validation--this is an example of the power of story telling. And about using hustling and experimentation to create inspiring stories.
Founders of Airbnb sold election-themed cereal when they were running out of money. The cereal sold out and gave the founders the 30k they needed to survive for the next months. They also got a story which they use today to promote proactiveness and scrappiness inside the company.
People love these stories. There are popular podcasts dedicated just for startup stories like these ones.
When I hear these stories, I can almost feel myself getting absorbed in to the world of the storyteller. I feel like I'm reliving their experiences. I face the challenges and find the solutions together with them.
Maybe you're that way too. I don't know.
But I'm 100% sure that like myself you are not going to have that level of engagement with a slide deck. No matter how pretty the PowerPoint presentation is.
Just don't let your stories become stale by reusing them over and over again. You have to write new ones if you want new change. Experiment, go crazy, do things that don't scale. Not for validation, but for story material.