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Raising the Bar: 3 Tips on Building an Organizational Culture of Learning

Earlier this month, my colleague penned a post about the importance of ongoing professional development and self-improvement through industry conferences and our own Evive Book Club. These efforts, more memorably put, are called “sharpening your saw.”

It inspired me to highlight another effort I lead at Evive—“Raising the Bar.” If saw-sharpening is about actively seeking out and absorbing the learnings of others, then bar-raising is about testing and continually re-testing those insights in your own organization in order to validate, challenge, and better those theories and their outcomes.

Here’s what we have learned about building and maintaining a successful “bar-raising” culture:

  1. Be inclusive. Strategic learning is not best executed in silos. That’s why at Evive we meet weekly as a cross-functional testing team to compare insights, shop ideas, and share recent testing results. Our creative team comes with ideas, our analytics team supports or challenges those ideas through the lens of our own past outcomes, and our customer operations team provides critical insight into the unique messaging populations. The result? Fully-considered interventions with cross-departmental influence and buy-in.
  2. Fall out of love with your idea almost as soon as you have it. This is particularly hard for creative folks (I feel it acutely!), but it’s a key survival skill if your goal is to raise the bar. Your testing team may find a hole in your idea as quickly as a big toe finds a hole in a sock. (That’s part of what good teams do.) And even when an idea is executed, your work isn’t done. Email send optimization allows us to pit subject lines against each other in real time, so the “loser” is systematically eliminated before we can even download the final data.

The second part to this is that even when an idea’s a winner, it’s still considered a “version 0” winner. A bar-raising culture will always seek to improve their results. As a recent example, our team recently tested and reproved a classic tenet of behavioral economics: that loss aversion framing (“don’t lose out on your $250 incentive”) is more effective than gain framing (“earn your $250 incentive”). While the results were compelling, our team discipline is to be happy with success, but never satisfied. Our next step is to take our “winning” loss aversion condition and test it against an amplified version of itself.

  1. Embrace and pursue the unknown. A trademark quality of an Evive employee is a sense of insatiable curiosity. We not only question how consumers navigate health and financial wealth, we examine digital marketing and user experience inquiries, like where the button needs to go and what color it needs to be to get clicked, equally as intensely.

We’re after the small questions—which are actually the big questions when it comes achieving your desired results. For example, what really comes to mind when a person reads the word “coverage”? How exactly do sick people decide between an urgent care center and an ER? And what keeps people from switching to an insurance plan that’s a better value for them?

And then, as we’re pursuing these questions, there are the questions that emerge in our own response data—and these are every bit as interesting and worthy of pursuit. Just recently, we’ve noted a strange trend in email: that men open emails at a lower rate, but click through at a higher rate; for women, the inverse is true. This disparity isn’t something we’re simply willing to live with. We’ll be tracking and exploring it along with a number of other insights in 2017.

Tell me: Does your organization have a culture of raising the bar? What research questions invigorate you? What consumer facts or fictions are you out to challenge and learn more about in 2017?