Who else has felt the sizzle of a project starting off hotter than a Sriracha bottle, only to have it fizzle like a bad soda? Happens to the best of us, right? Here’s a little blast from my past, a story from the ol’ Apple orchard days.

So there I was, leading a pack of design renegades, ready to change the interface of our flagship product. I mean, we had it all planned out. We were following that design thinking playbook like it was the Dead Sea Scrolls—Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. You name it, we did it. But guess what? The project folded quicker than you can say “Jobs’ iconic turtleneck.” Why, you ask? Oh, nothing much, just that we were speaking Greek while the business honchos expected Latin.

So, let’s get one thing straight: Design thinking isn’t the messiah it’s made out to be, especially if you’re talking to the spreadsheet brigade. They’re more likely to yawn than to jump up and holler “Eureka!” Because let’s be real here, while design thinking is fab for designers, it often leaves the business brass wondering what in the world they should be excited about.

Let me toss you a curveball. Forget everything you’ve heard, seen, or read about design thinking. We’re going to reframe this whole shebang so that it’s not just the hipster designers who are thrilled, but also the folks who hold the purse strings. Are you with me? Great!

Oh, and before you start bombarding me with hate comments like “Geoffrey, you heathen, design thinking is the gospel!”—hold your horses. I’m not saying it’s garbage. I’ve used it, preached it, heck, even saw it perform miracles in the right contexts. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all panacea.

You can’t take a methodology that was coined for the creative, nebulous, whimsical world of design and expect it to play nice with the ruthless, bottom-line-obsessed, KPI-driven universe of business. It’s like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole; it just won’t work unless you shave off the edges, and then you’ve got something entirely different, don’t you?

But what if we could translate design thinking into a language everyone in a company can groove to? From the sales guy pitching on the ground to the C-suite exec looking at spreadsheets, what if they all got equally pumped about your next big project? That’s what we’re diving into today: Turning the utopian ideal of design thinking into an experiment-driven business strategy that everyone gets.

The Faux Pas of Design Thinking

Ah, design thinking. It kicks off like a rock concert, right? The energy is electric; your team is scribbling on whiteboards, jamming out ideas, feeling like the next da Vincis. But then, something tragic happens—the initial oomph loses its steam faster than you can swipe left on a bad Tinder date. Why? Because while you were busy empathizing and ideating, the rest of the corporate world was asking, “Okay, but how does this translate to dollars and cents?”

And let’s cut through the noise for a second. Businesses, especially the big-wigs in the corner offices, could care less about the “Empathize, Define, Ideate” cycle. Not because they’re soulless overlords, but because those words don’t immediately resonate with the language of business. When was the last time you saw “Empathy Level” or “Ideation Efficiency” on a quarterly report? Yeah, didn’t think so.

In business, it’s all about numbers, outcomes, and performance metrics. You could empathize till you’re blue in the face, but if you can’t define how that’s going to boost revenue, decrease churn, or optimize workflow, you’re just making noise. And let me debunk a myth for you—no, it’s not because business folks are soulless. They just need to see the roadmap to ROI-ville, and ‘design thinking’ seems more like a detour than a direct route.

Look, I get it. Design thinking is sexy. It’s what every startup garage and innovation lab is swearing by. But in many ways, it’s become a buzzword that sounds good in meetings but lacks substance when it comes to the big leagues. Just because you’re donning a black turtleneck and quoting Steve Jobs doesn’t mean your project will be the next iPhone. The moment you pitch ‘design thinking’ to execs who’re used to hearing about risk assessments, profit margins, and market penetration—your credibility takes a nosedive.

Let’s clear up some misconceptions while we’re at it. No one’s saying business people are heartless creatures who snack on the souls of creatives. Contrary to that stereotype, they’re not against innovation or human-centric approaches. Heck, they love new stuff that works! But they’re cautious, prudent. They don’t want to be the next headline on “Business Failures of the Year.” They need assurances, tangibles, something meatier than “we followed the design thinking process.”

So, here’s the rub: design thinking in its current form is just not enough to woo the business side of the house. It’s incomplete. You have to accept that and pivot. If you want your design ideas to survive the corporate battleground, you’ve got to be fluent in both worlds. You need a bridging language, a lexicon that rings as true in the design studio as it does in the boardroom. The solution? An experiment-driven approach that speaks ‘business.’

Experiment-Driven Business

What if I told you there’s a way to make the snazzy, creative world of design thinking speak the universal language of business? Yep, it’s not rocket science; it’s an experiment-driven business approach. So, how do we translate the artistic, touchy-feely stuff into numbers and spreadsheets that’ll make your CFO’s eyes light up?

First off, we need to redefine our terms. Let’s make them more, shall we say, palatable for the business realm. In the design thinking world, we talk about ‘Empathizing’ with the customer. In the boardroom, however, that needs to transform into ‘Hypothesizing.’ A hypothesis is an educated guess that you can test, validate, and plug into an Excel sheet, my friends. See the difference? You still get to keep your artsy spirit, but now it has a corporate visa.

First up, we’ve got ‘Define’ ‘Ideate’ ‘Prototype + Test’ Well, in the biz world, let’s switch these out for ‘Experiment.’ Because guess what? Every definition, every idea, every prototype can be turned into an actionable experiment that yields hard data.

Next, we’ve got ‘Actuals’. That’s right, the real, tangible results that can be measured, analyzed, and ultimately acted upon. If your ideas aren’t generating actual outcomes, then they’re just that—ideas.

Finally we’ve got ‘Decisions’. Every experiment should lead to actionable insights that prompt decisions. These decisions could be about scaling, adjusting, or even killing a project. But they’re solid, grounded decisions based on hard facts, not wishful thinking.

Now, let’s tackle some stereotypes. I can almost hear the eye rolls: “Oh great, another corporate guru repackaging old wine in a new bottle.” Look, this isn’t a sleight of hand, alright? We’re not just jazzing up design thinking with fancy words. The experiment-driven approach is pragmatic; it’s a realistic way to translate the dynamism of design thinking into actionable, accountable business strategies. You’re taking all the brainstorming, all the creativity, and all the empathy, and you’re laying it down on a foundation of quantifiable metrics and results.

So if you’re sitting there, scoffing at this as just another corporate gimmick, I dare you to try it out. Implement an experiment-driven approach in your next project and watch how quickly you go from being the ‘artsy’ outlier to the person who gets high fives in both the design studio and the boardroom. It’s about taking the best of both worlds and making them work together, not in silos but in synergy.

The Perks of Going Experimental

Alright, so we’ve dismantled design thinking like it’s an old Ikea bookshelf and rebuilt it into this shiny new thing called experiment-driven business. But why should you even care? What are the perks, right? Let’s dive into that.

First and foremost, it’s an all-hands-on-deck approach. Gone are the days when the design team is huddled in a corner with colorful Post-Its, while the business team is cranking away on spreadsheets. The experiment-driven approach demands collaboration. Because guess what? Experiments need planners and executors; they need thinkers and doers. So, not only does this get your design team and your business team in the same room, but it also gets them speaking the same language. That’s like a corporate version of a hug, you guys.

Alright, moving on to the next point. Experimenting is—wait for it—sexy. Yes, I said it. Now, get your minds out of the gutter. When people hear ‘experiment,’ they think innovation, breaking barriers, doing something out-of-the-box. It adds a certain pizzazz to what could otherwise be a humdrum project. Not to mention, it’s a heck of a lot more fun to say, “We’re experimenting with new user engagement tactics,” than to say, “We’re rethinking our approach.” One sounds like you’re changing the game; the other sounds like you’re correcting a mistake. Perception is reality, folks.

Now, let’s talk about groundbreaking stuff. No, I’m not saying that every experiment you run will be as revolutionary as, say, Elon Musk’s Twitter feed (though, let’s face it, most things aren’t). But the experimental approach does give you a platform to take risks without the looming fear of catastrophic failure. How? Because you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket; you’re testing the waters first. You’re collecting data, and that data will either vindicate your brilliant idea or save you from a colossal flop. It’s a win-win, really.

So, let’s wrap this section up, shall we? The perks of going experimental are manifold. It fosters collaboration across departments, it adds an element of ‘cool’ to your projects, and it minimizes risk while maximizing the potential for real, game-changing innovation. It’s not just rebranded corporate mumbo jumbo; it’s a paradigm shift that has the potential to overhaul the way you tackle projects.

If you’ve always thought that business strategies and creative design are like oil and water, think again. The experiment-driven business approach is your emulsifier; it brings together disparate elements into a cohesive, effective blend. So why settle for one or the other when you can have a killer combo?

Kicking Off Your First Experiment

Alright, you’re sold on this whole experiment-driven business approach, but you’re staring at your screen thinking, “Okay, great, how the heck do I start?” Don’t sweat it. Starting an experiment is about as complicated as making instant ramen—seriously, you’ve got this.

First things first, just propose a damn experiment. Yeah, you heard me. No need to overthink it. Do you have an idea? Great. Turn that idea into a hypothesis. Then, break down what you’d need to do to test it. What are the variables? What’s the timeframe? Who are the key players? Jot these down. It’s that straightforward.

Now, let’s talk about your new best friend—The Brief Proposal Template. If proposing an experiment is the seed, this template is the soil, water, and sunlight that will make that seed sprout into a fully-grown project. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just functional. This is where you’ll outline your objectives, methodologies, timelines, and resources. Remember, simplicity is key. You’re not writing a dissertation; you’re plotting a course of action. Keep it lean, mean, and easy to understand. This makes it easier for others to get on board, which brings me to my next point.

Welcome to Buy-In Heaven. Why is it easier to get approval for an ‘experiment’ than for a full-blown project? It’s the same reason why it’s easier to get someone to try a free sample than to buy a whole cake. Lower stakes, baby! An experiment sounds non-threatening, manageable, and inherently temporary. If it doesn’t work out, no biggie—it was just an experiment. But if it does, you’ve just laid the groundwork for a larger project that already has proof of concept. In the business world, that’s pretty darn close to a slam dunk.

If you’re new to this, don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time around. The point of an experiment is to learn. Think of it as a series of iterative steps, each one getting you closer to that eureka moment. Your first proposal might be rough around the edges, and that’s perfectly fine. What matters is that you’re moving, you’re shaking, you’re disrupting the status quo.

To cap it off, the experiment-driven approach isn’t just another buzzword. It’s an actionable, impactful, and practical way to get stuff done. It minimizes the red tape, cuts through the inertia, and creates a faster path to implementation. And hey, if your experiment doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. It’s a lesson learned and data gathered, ready for the next experiment to come along. So what are you waiting for? Your laboratory—be it a cubicle, a boardroom, or a digital workspace—is waiting. Time to don that lab coat and start experimenting!

Want to Push Creative Ideas? Call Them Experiments!

Alright, team, let’s talk semantics. Words are powerful tools, and sometimes a simple tweak in how we frame something can make a world of difference. Case in point: instead of saying you’re pushing a “creative idea,” try pitching it as an “experiment.” Ah, the magic word: Experiment. Why does this word wield such power?

For one, “experiment” implies a kind of built-in safety net. It acknowledges right from the get-go that there’s room for error, and that’s not just okay, it’s expected. There’s no grand failure; it’s all a learning process. You remove the stigma tied to messing up, which frees everyone to be more daring, creative, and innovative.

Secondly, let’s get real. The corporate world loves jargon, but we can flip that to our advantage. They want to “synergize,” “optimize,” and “iterate”? Great! An “experiment” slots right into that buzzword bingo, making it instantly digestible for the suits in the boardroom. This is the corporate version of hacking the matrix, trust me on this.

Practical takeaways? Start by reframing your projects as experiments, whether they’re small scale or large scale. Make it a habit. Once you do, you’ll notice that you’re getting less pushback and more green lights. Because who’s gonna argue with science, right? The evidence is your best friend, and the more experiments you conduct, the more data you collect. The more data you have, the easier it is to convince the higher-ups to let you keep doing your thing. It’s a snowball effect that you’re going to love.

Remember, repetition is your friend here. Start calling all innovative efforts “experiments,” and it won’t be long before everyone else starts doing the same. So, say it with me now: Experiments are the future. Experiments are the future. No, seriously, say it until it sticks because this is the stepping stone to shifting the organizational mindset. We’re not just daydreaming; we’re doing scientifically-backed, result-driven, real-world testing.

The final cherry on top? Once the word “experiment” becomes the new normal, you’ve effectively planted a seed in the company culture. Everyone starts to understand that it’s okay to take calculated risks, that it’s okay to fail as long as you learn from it. What was once the scary unknown becomes the exciting playground for innovation.

To sum it up: if you want to push creative ideas and get that well-deserved recognition, start calling your projects “experiments.” Trust me, you’ll feel like Neo in “The Matrix,” dodging obstacles and unlocking new levels of creative freedom. Let’s hack this business matrix and start cooking up some experiments!


We’ve reached the finish line, and if you’ve been following along like the sharp creative minds I know you are, you’ve probably realized by now: Design Thinking? Ditch that bad boy like you would a BlackBerry. Make it the floppy disk of business strategies. No disrespect to the classics, but it’s time to evolve. What’s the new black? Experiment-Driven Business.

Let’s recap, shall we? You came here probably thinking design thinking was the be-all and end-all of business innovation. But let me tell ya, it’s not the secret sauce anymore. The corporate bigwigs have caught on, and they’re yawning. You need to speak their language while still keeping that creative spark alive. And for that, my darlings, you need to go experimental.

The term ‘experiment’ isn’t just a catchphrase or some hip new slang to toss around at team meetings. It’s a legit game-changer. The word itself acts like a Trojan Horse, sneaking past all the corporate defenses and reservations. No longer are you struggling to get buy-in for a “creative idea” that’s too far out there. Now, you’re proposing “experiments” that resonate with everyone—from the art department to accounting.

Ready to start some fires? And I mean that figuratively, okay? No pyros here, please. Take that burning idea you’ve got tucked away and propose it as your first experiment. Get it past those boardrooms and into action. With just this simple tweak in your terminology, you’ll find it’s easier to get buy-in, funding, and support. And as you build on these successes, you’re not just pushing the needle—you’re redefining how the game is played.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.