Embrace Your Ignorance

Today’s savviest executives acknowledge that most of the time, they can’t accurately predict what their customers will want, like or need. That’s where experiments come in.

Microsoft’s Ronny Kohavi, a pioneer in online experimentation since his days as director of data mining and personalization at Amazon.com, likes to challenge his Internet-savvy audiences with a little experiment. Kohavi, a Microsoft distinguished engineer and general manager for analysis and experimentation, shows screenshots of simple but real A/B experiments that Microsoft ran to test different Web design options. Some visitors saw the A version, some the B version — and Microsoft tracked which version yielded better ...

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