Idea and purpose
Experimental spaces enable organizations and its members to gradually use and test alternative ways of working and tools within their daily working routines. The purpose of this is to learn about the potential qualities and effects of forthcoming changes associated with the fourth industrial revolution. During a definite experimental phase, standard procedures and routines are alternated. Whether and how they will become a fixed part of a new organization is decided after the testing period. This tool allows organizations to deal with controversial innovations that entail different views and positions. Unlike disruptive approaches to innovation, experimental spaces seek to introduce changes incrementally.
Such an experimental setting requires thorough preparation and a comprehensive involvement of stakeholders. Also, it requires the respective resources and support by top-level management since it affects daily work routines and changes standard processes. However, this approach has the potential to find ways out of complex and controversial situations where different groups carry conflicting positions and to explore critical and novel areas.
There are two groups involved with different responsibilities During the test period, teams from different organizational units participate in the experimental space exploring new ideas and making suggestions for future changes (‘the experts’). A smaller team is responsible for setting up the space, for the monitoring, and the evaluation of the process (‘the supervisors’).
Temporal and spatial structure
Usually, the test period should last at least six month to allow for a thorough exploration of new ideas and to learn about the consequences. Experimental spaces comprise various organizational units and are not bound to a specific place.
Before the actual experiment, a team determines the content of the experiment and the prospective changes, the temporal and spatial structure, and selects the participants. During the test, the participating teams are relatively free to choose different approaches – for instance, whether they prefer one tool over another. The changes and effects are evaluated on a regular basis during the experiment. After the testing period then, decisions are made whether and how certain changes are implemented.
An IT-Service company based in Europe is facing the problem that some of its official regulations for working hours are not suitable for imagined ways of working. Also, in order to enable virtual collaboration of international teams, it is necessary to consolidate diverging regulations and to find standards for the use of specific tools. However, since this topic touches the interests of many groups, it is difficult to find a strategy that works for all.
Therefore, the company decides to involve different groups in an experiment to openly learn about the requirements for a new system and new regulations. This procedure allows an incremental learning about different needs and changes that are necessary for a more fundamental change of the organization.