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Ep 127: When to call a test a FAILURE and move on



"That service I just created in my business was a fail and the email that I just created didn't work. Maybe I should throw it all away."

Tell me if that question hasn't crossed your mind. I would be surprised. I know it comes across my mind a lot, but there is a way that we can be a little bit more strategic in deciding whether we should throw things away and call it a failure or whether we need to tweak things.

In this episode, you'll learn...

  • The freedom of a test and learn mindset in trying to achieve your goals

  • What a test and learn approach could look like in your business

  • How to clearly understand when to pivot or persevere on an idea or path forward


Lately, I've had some interesting questions to myself as to whether or not some of the marketing tactics I had been working on or some of the freebies that I was giving away or just some of the offers that I had, in general, had been working and I've been kind of wrestling around with, "Alright, do I just pull this offer from the shelf? I don't see it getting all the traction I wanted to get. Should I just pull it from the shelf? Do I need to hold on to it? Are there other factors that, just an accountant for like, enough people haven't seen it or it's not quite in the language of the people that I'm targeting or any number of things." So I've been having this battle in my head. "Do I continue forward? Do I held it, throw it away, start over, pivot? "

And the thing that came to me as I was planning my content calendar for the episodes of the podcast and I wanted to do something around how, if something is a failure, but I'm thinking back to my experience, write it right now. I'm thinking, "I don't know if I should throw it away or not." And so what occurred to me is I had not been following the guidance and the coaching that I have given to so many corporate employees across large organizations around testing and learning and lean startup type principles and how you want to fail and fail fast and learn and pivot and all this good stuff. And so it occurred to me that, "Okay, it's time for you to stop and set yourself up the way that you coach and teach. No different here." Sometimes it's easy for us to forget to coach ourselves. So that was happening to me anyhow.

So what occurred to me as I was doing the podcast is, "All right, I'm sure that I'm not the only one who goes through that struggle of, I created something either it's not being downloaded enough or I'm not getting feedback about it or no one sharing it and you feel like it's a dud and you feel like maybe you should scrap it. So let's talk a little bit today about how to first get yourself into a test and learn mode and we'll talk about what that looks like. Then let's talk about how to define some success criteria for whatever it is that you're testing or you're putting out there. Then let's talk about when it's time to pivot and how you know when it's time to pivot and choose to do something else.

Test and Learn

So the first one, from a test and learn perspective, I favor this mindset and this way of working and it simply says that essentially I don't have all the answers and I might be wrong and this might not be the right thing, but I'm going to try it. I'm going to see, I'm going to learn. So what I love about the test and learn is it takes some of the pressure off in terms of needing to feel like you're right and that you have made the perfect decision. Testing your learning says "It's okay to not know. I'm going to figure it out and help evidence guide me." So if you're one of those people that would like a little bit of freedom in terms of taking some of the weight off your shoulders and needing to be perfect than being in a test and learn mode is exactly what you want to do.

So in this test and learn mode, a lot of this has been built up around lean startup related principles. The idea of testing and learning has been around before lean startup principles. And if you're not aware of the lean startup, there's a book by Eric Reis, he wrote "Bowling in startup" and that's where a lot of these practices have come more mainstream, especially in software development and the startup world and that type of thing. So either way from a test and learn perspective, the roots of it are also in the scientific method. So whenever researchers are doing experiments and they want to know whether or not a certain outcome is going to be achieved, they come up with a hypothesis, right? They say that this particular thing is likely to do this thing and they quantify the outcome in some way.

That allows them to go back after the experiment is done and say, "Okay, was my hypothesis true or was my hypothesis incorrect? And so that's essentially the way this whole test and learn mode works.

Defining Success Criteria

Take it from a business perspective. Let's say I wanted to build out a freebie to give away to folks. Say it's a checklist of some sort and I have this hypothesis that my audience is going to love this checklist because the items on here are pain points that they are dealing with every single day. So if I get at least a hundred downloads within the next 48 hours one week you have it, whatever it is, then I will say that "Yep, this download is valuable. People do want this and that I should scale it out to the masses." So that would be a hypothesis and then I would proceed forward with all my actions.

Trying to get as many downloads as possible. Whether I'm doing Facebook ads, whether I'm talking about it on social media, however, I'm getting the word out there, and then I would see what happens. So at the end of my timeframe, again, whether it was a day, a week, two days, whatever, I would see if I reached that hundred downloads that I thought I would get, and if I didn't reach it, then that says to me, "Okay, well maybe I want to call this a fail, right? Maybe there's something that I need to tweak. Maybe I need to get the word out through different channels, or maybe I need to change my message a little bit." Lots of different things to tweak, but allows you to have an opportunity to say, "Should I pivot to something else or do I need to just tweak this a little bit? "

Put that experiment back out there and learn a little bit more. So when you take a more scientific approach, everything that I'm doing is a series of experiments. It's a series of learning and you can define what the success measure is. Then it will allow you to very easily say, "Oh, I'm going to persevere on this" or "Nope, I'm going to pivot cause this is not working."

Is it time to pivot?

Now, if you do not set any success measures, so let's take it back to my example where I'm going back and forth or should I pull these offers out? Should I not pull them out? Are they working? Are they not working? If I were to have given myself concrete success measures, it would allow me to stop a little bit of the wrestling and do more of a strategic approach to say, "Well in the next round I'm going to change to this thing and I'm going to change that thing and I'm going to see before I decide to scrap it."

Now, of course, that is something that I'm doing even right now, but I can eliminate some of the wrestling back and forth if you spell it out ahead of time before you even get down that path. So if you want to really get yourself to a place where you are constantly testing and learning and getting feedback and delivering things into the market as crazy, then you want to make sure that you can get into this test and learn mode and really understand what that means. And then you'll also know, "Hey, should I pivot or should I persevere?" So take this, take action.


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