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Why Rapid Experimentation Helps You Deliver True Customer Benefits

Innovation, IntuitLife Intuit employees working through a rapid experiment

At Intuit, each and every employee is expected to think like an entrepreneur. It’s everyone’s job to create, to invent, and to look for new and better ways to improve our customers’ lives. We do this by turning the individual ability of our founder, Scott Cook, into activating all employees to solve our customers biggest problems. 

Collectively, we call these capabilities Design for Delight (D4D). The approach comprises three principles — Deep Customer Empathy, Go Broad to Go Narrow, and Rapid Experimentation. D4D is the secret sauce for how we innovate at Intuit, and at its heart is the customer.

We apply D4D to bold new ideas, as well as our daily work, continuously delighting our customers as a result. Our goal is to fall in love with the customer’s problem, not a solution. We connect directly with our customers to gain empathy, focus on bold solutions that provide real benefits, and then quickly test the best solutions. That’s innovation, and that’s what we do each and every day at Intuit.

In this final blog, we explore the third D4D principle: Rapid Experimentation. Conducting rapid experiments with real customers tests your solutions quickly and leads to better decisions. This is about being systematic on assumptions, prototyping with clear intent, and iterating with your customers. You quickly learn what works and what does not, saving valuable time and resources when making your next decision. The customer’s reaction to your solution to their problem provides the data you need to move forward — or to step back.

Before you get started, make sure you set yourself up for success. As you jump into this phase of D4D, ensure your experiment records qualitative and quantitative results. Don’t forget to assess what you and your team learned before deciding what to do next. This is the most important part of the rapid experiment loop, where you decide if you should keep going, make changes, or pivot to the next solution. Compare your hypothesis to your actual success metric results, as well as any surprises and qualitative feedback or observations. You’re now ready to dive into rapid experimentation!

There are three steps to Rapid Experimentation

1. Leap of Faith Assumptions

Once you’ve identified a solution, the first step is to identify Leap of Faith Assumptions (LOFAs). LOFAs help focus your experiments and energy on the areas of greatest risk. They should be relative to your specific solution idea, and are defined as “the assumptions that are most crucial for a product or feature to succeed” and “have not yet proven to be true in practice elsewhere.”

  • Brainstorm as many assumptions as you can and write each on a sticky note. Consider all the assumptions that must be true for your idea to be successful, such as customer behaviors, technology, business, data, etc. (E.g., “customers will buy shoes online,” “customers will connect with an accountant in our app,” etc.) It can be helpful to do this as a team. 
  • Next, draw a 2×2 matrix — a simple square divided into four equal quadrants where each of the two axes represents a decision criterion — on a white board or large piece of paper. Assign the following criteria to each axis of the 2×2:
    • Vertical Axis Criteria from top to bottom = “Crucial” to “Not Crucial” (i.e., Must be true for the success of our solution to Optional to our success).
    • Horizontal Axis Criteria from right to left = “Unproven” to “Proven” (i.e., Not yet proven true in practice to Proven true in practice). 
  • Organize your assumptions. Once you have a large list of assumptions, place each sticky note on your 2×2 matrix relative to each other according to the criteria above. To make things easier, consider focusing on one axis first, then the second axis.

When all assumptions have been placed on your 2×2, confirm each assumption is in the proper relative location. And voilà! Your “Leap of Faith” assumption is now located in the upper right corner! 

2. Prototyping

Prototyping is a mindset having to do with making our conceptual ideas tangible as quickly and cheaply as possible, so that we can get feedback and improve the idea. You can prototype anything, whether it’s a sentence for your ideal state, a deck for a presentation, or an experience to test with a customer. This is all about making protos and iterating with our customers.

Effective prototyping is rapid and rough. Don’t aim for completeness or perfection, but rather aim to address the right question. And don’t wait to prototype! When you’re in a meeting and see too much debate about how to execute something, go to the white board or pull out paper and a sharpie. You’ll find it more productive to discuss a tangible prototype than to debate theories and interpretations of spoken words. There’s power in building — building to think, to learn, and to share.

3. Experimentation

Where rapid prototyping with customers allows quick learning and iterations, experimentation helps teams assess an idea in light of true customer behavior. A good experiment helps you close the “say-do gap” — that is, the gap between what customers say they would do and what they actually do.

Sometimes gathering behavioral data through experimentation means faking it and putting out a minimum viable product (MVP) that doesn’t have the back-end built yet.

The most common types of experiment are:

  • Fast Cycle Sketch Test: Observe testers “using” a sketch prototype
  • Fake-o Test: Part of the front-end experience, or back-end tech is fake
  • Concierge Test: Deliver the experience manually, then automate later
  • Technical Test: Prove the technology can work
  • Fully Built A/B Test: Live in production

This completes this three-part blog series on the three D4D principles — Deep Customer Empathy, Go Broad to Go Narrow, and Rapid Experimentation. When you incorporate D4D into your company, we believe you’ll save wasted time building something no one wants to use or something that is being used in a way you didn’t think it would. Companies often fail because they create a solution no one wants. D4D helps ensure that you don’t become one of them!

Ultimately, innovation never ends. Staying rooted in the problem without falling in love with the solution is the key to happy customers and an aligned team needed to deliver solutions that delight them.