Conducting Little Experiments


I didn’t eat for 40 hours.

20 hours into the experiment I was miserable. All I could think about was food. I went to bed that night hungry, dreaming about BBQ ribs. I woke up seven hours later, feeling like I had been shot out of a cannon. I was a man on fire with laser focus and energy levels I cannot recall experiencing any time recently. If I didn’t have a lunch meeting scheduled, I would have absolutely continued the fast.


I was conducting an experiment. I had heard about the benefits of intermittent fasting from a few friends.

That is where breakthroughs happen and it’s precisely why I’m passionate about conducting a whole lot more little experiments in my own business this year. Whenever I hit a plateau on my growth, I know it’s because I’ve relaxed on my commitment to learning. Case in point, now that I am back in “rapid experiment” mode, our growth curve is accelerating at record pace after a relatively flat 2016.

Increasingly, the danger isn’t just about experiencing a plateau. The real danger is becoming irrelevant or easily replaced. Consider this commentary from the current Economist cover story, Lifelong Learning: How To Survive In The Age of Automation:

Today robotics and artificial intelligence call for another education revolution. This time, however, working lives are so lengthy and so fast-changing that simply cramming more schooling in at the start is not enough. People must also be able to acquire new skills throughout their careers.

The education revolution is here, and the onus is on each one of us to accelerate our own learning curve, quickly. Don’t count on your company to keep you current. They simply aren’t equipped to help you keep the pace now required to adapt and thrive.

The real danger is becoming irrelevant or easily replaced.
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Case in point: I’m heading to Dallas to spend Friday with my client, AT&T, a company focused on equipping its workforce with digital skills. AT&T spends $30 million a year on reimbursing employees’ tuition costs. However, leadership also recognizes that investment simply isn’t enough. CEO Randall Stephenson issued a very clear directive to employees in the New York Times: Adapt or else:

“There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop. People who do not spend five to 10 hours a week in online learning will obsolete themselves with the technology.”

Take it to heart. “The 5-Hour Rule” is a page from the playbook of many widely-admired business leaders, including Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg. The idea is simple: Set aside 5 hours a week for deliberate practice or learning. The read – reflect – experiment approach works:

“People who apply the five-hour rule in the world of work have an advantage. The idea of deliberate practice is often confused with just working hard. Also, most professionals focus on productivity and efficiency, not on improvement. As a result, just five hours of deliberate learning a week can set you apart.”

Commit to stay in the learning lane and conduct little experiments along the way. Avoiding failure is not the goal. In fact, you are going to make mistakes. The goal is to recover from mistakes quickly and accelerate your learning curve in the process. Knowing it’s just a “little experiment” actually can help you confront fear, create action and quickly course-correct once you’ve collected feedback and data.

I’ve already shelved one of our 2017 experiments and quickly learned valuable lessons in the process. We are going to regroup and launch again better, stronger, smarter and faster.

Immediately after we launched, we secured client commitments from Caterpillar and Tiffany & Co. We’ll accept two more clients in 2017 and with continued success we will expand the project. Stay tuned!

Carve out time for learning right in your calendar. What gets scheduled gets done. Commit to continuously running little experiments that push you outside of your comfort zone. You will be a whole lot more prepared to win in a 2020 world.

The most important investment you can make every day is an investment in you!