Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.
—W. Edwards Deming
We all have our own views on the way that our organization, department, and teams ought to handle things. I suspect that most of us think that, if given the chance, we would do a better job than our bosses do. Things would be different if I were running things. But would they really, and, more important, how would you know?
When many people think of proper experiments, they envision scientists in white coats lurking over participants (usually college kids) paid $10 per hour. Maybe Stanley Milgram’s faux electric shocks come to mind. Few people think of experiments in a business context, and that’s unfortunate. As we see in this chapter, experiments often serve as valuable ways of conclusively determining if ideas, products, and policies actually work—and if they work better than alternatives.
Much to the chagrin of animal rights’ groups, pharmaceutical companies try different combinations of compounds on lab rats to test the efficacy of drugs under development. (Better on mice than on humans, I suppose.) And it doesn’t stop there. For instance, CapitalOne routinely mails thousands of credit card offers with slightly different terms, including:
Employees at CapitalOne—one of my former employers—are ...