Better Management Through A/B Testing

What’s happening this week at the intersection of management and technology.

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Tech Savvy

Tech Savvy was a weekly column focused on new developments at the intersection of management and technology. For more weekly roundups for managers, see our Best of This Week series.
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A/B testing your way to better management: Marketers and product developers love A/B testing. Want to figure out the most compelling offer for an online ad or the best design for new app? Test two of alternatives head to head and see which one people like better. Voilà!

A/B testing works so well that Instacart’s vice president of product, Elliot Shmukler thinks managers should adopt it to improve their decision-making prowess, too. “There are many effective decision-making frameworks out there, but I wanted to use one that would simultaneously surface the best choice for the product while still encouraging the inherently different approaches to ideation among my product managers,” he explains.

When Shmukler’s product teams can’t resolve conflicting ideas and come to him for a final decision, he refuses to issue an edict. “Instead of giving a verdict, [I] test both theories and let data be the judge,” he says. “At first pass, this method may seem to favor the data-driven people, but it empowers each PM to push ideas forward. They learn independently rather than feeling that a decision was made for them.”

A/B testing also allows Shmukler to approve multiple product ideas, with the proviso that they be tested. “It increases experimentation, autonomy and learning throughout the organization,” he says. “Most critically, it fosters goodwill among smart — but very different — PMs who want to try out their ideas.”

For more on the benefits — and the challenges — of using A/B testing for management decisions, read Shmuckler’s interview in First Round Review.

Expanding the inclusive workforce with robotics: While we worry about losing our livelihoods to Mr. Roboto, Peter Hirst reminds us that there is a silver lining to the robotics cloud. “Let’s pause on the robots-are-taking-over-our-jobs panic for a minute and take a look at how some robots — telepresence robots, specifically — could be used to give access not only to jobs but to meaningful and rewarding careers for a historically overlooked and excluded population — people with disabilities,” writes the associate dean of executive education at MIT Sloan School of Management in an article on TechCrunch.

Hirst points out that nearly 20% of U.S. citizens live with some type of disability, and that 80% of them aren’t working — and certainly not for a lack of trying.

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Topics

Tech Savvy

Tech Savvy was a weekly column focused on new developments at the intersection of management and technology. For more weekly roundups for managers, see our Best of This Week series.
See All Articles in This Series

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