Why Leaders Should Be Like Scientists

If there’s one thing the growth of business analytics has made clear it’s that leaders need to think increasingly like scientists.
Consider Booking.com. Founded in the Netherlands in 1996, they are the world’s largest accommodation booking site. In addition to hotels, Booking.com offers over 6.6 million non-hotel locations – over three times as many as a company that generates a lot more buzz: Airbnb.
Booking.com’s innovation-driven culture is fueled by research-based decision-making and employee empowerment. Their development team is given wide latitude and conducts up to 1000 experiments daily (!) to test the subtle nuances of website content, design and features. Using a controlled “A/B protocol” each experiment tests one option against another to see which if either results in more bookings.
CEO Gillian Tans explains, “The quickest way to innovate successfully is to make lots of little mistakes on your way to getting it right. If you’re afraid of failure … you’ll never test out those crazy, off-the-wall ideas that may actually be genius. We celebrate failure because it’s a moment for us all to learn.”
Scientists speak of hypotheses. You have assumptions, beliefs, and hunches. Business analytics is the practice of systematically testing those through what scientists call controlled experiments. The outcomes of those experiments allow you to develop approaches or, using science-speak, theories about which actions are likely to lead to which outcomes and why.
“Even if you think you know what the customer wants,” says Tans, “you need to follow what they actually do to be sure.”
In other words, don’t guess, be a scientist.
Time for you to put the lab coat on.
Your thoughts?
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