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Designing career experiments

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein

And yet we do this again and again in life. We know something is not working for us in life/career and it's not leading us to the outcomes we want. Yet we repeat the same behaviour and expect different results.

As a child we were different.

We were ready to fall down hundreds of times, in different ways to stand up.

We were ready to blabber hundreds of sounds before speaking coherently.

None of it bothered us.

At school we were ready to try scientific experiments to discover the world around us.

We were ready to experiment with centre of gravity to ride a cycle.

It's amazing how curiosity and perseverance suddenly stops after we finish formal school for most of us. It goes almost non-existent after years of work.

At different points in their career, people want to grow, influence, achieve and get appreciation.

However when asked, what are the different ways they have tried so far, it doesn't move beyond 2 different ways. This piles up a huge amount of regret and blocks metal space for the person.

There are a few things that comes in the way of experimenting:

  1. Assumption one cannot do anything to change the outcome.

  2. Assumption that there is one right way.

  3. Assumption that one always has to know the right way before taking action.

  4. Assumption that one way doesn't work for self after trying a couple of times.

  5. Assumption that experiments are reinventing the wheel and someone else knows how exactly what needs to be done.

While knowledge has a role to play, it's the courage to experiment that leads to contextual learning.

What mindset enables design of career experiments?

  1. Fail forward to success

As any experimental process would allow, failure is permissible.

For eg, If you are attempting to influence stakeholders to move forward in your career, pick one and see what / who has the possibility to influence them.

Once you have an idea, incorporate it in your action and see how they respond.

If your action does not lead to the desired outcome, fine tune it, refine it and check for results.

If it still doesn't move the needle, note that this method didn't work with that particular stakeholder and move to next.


2. The role of a constants & Variables

Experiments are designed with constants and variables.

The constant is kept constant a period of time.

So as you are designing experiments, don't lose heart without giving yourself enough time to keep something constant.

Variables mean just that - to vary and try with different permutations & combinations.

For eg, you have started speaking up to be noticed, give yourself at least couple of months before deciding it's a waste of time. Agree in some meetings, disagree in some meetings and see the response its generates. Pick something to keep constant - your ability to collaborate.


3. Measure what matters

Experiments need you to measure what you are being/doing for a period of time to lead to useful learnings.

If you are doing a behaviour change, notice frequency, reaction, bounce back and track them regularly.

If you have not got he promotion you so desired, the recognition you wanted desperately, the opportunity that you aspired for, wear the glass of experimentation and look at

  • what else can you try?

  • what did the failure teach you?

  • Is there a behaviour deficit or a consistency deficit?

  • Is there a forward momentum?

  • Is there any leading signal?

What will you experiment with for your career to have a different trajectory?


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