Testing is fundamentally important to increase your odds of success. Yes, you may have been born an athletic freak. You may write a screenplay that strikes the right tone at the right time and is wildly successful. You may come out with the best cupcake right when cupcakes become the latest fad. You might hit the lottery too. But, it’s not exactly the way to ensure that you’ll be successful someday. Testing is.
The best part is, you don’t have to be a CEO, or a web 2.0 proprietor, or an athlete to use testing to improve your life. Literally anyone can benefit from it.
I spoke to an old friend today. He’s waiting tables in Los Angeles while he tries to get his career going. I asked him how it was going, and he said he’s having a blast. We got to talking about finances and he tells me he’s steadily been making more and more money. “From serving food?” I asked. “How’s that?” All he said was “I started testing it.”
Of course. On any given night, he interacts with maybe 100 people, all of whom show up to his restaurant for roughly the same reason. Perfect testing grounds. By testing the way he acts, what he says, and what he does, he’s managed to substantially increase his tips. For example, being overly outgoing and extremely attentive doesn’t work well. Patrons at his restaurant like a waiter who’s quiet, nice, and always there when they need you, but not constantly hovering around. When people ask for a recommendation, he doesn’t say “Oh, everything’s good.” He says “Everything’s fantastic, but my favorite thing on the menu is X. My second favorite thing on the menu is Y.” Most of the time, that’s what people will order. He also discovered that personalizing every check with a short note is extremely effective.
But, he tells me his coup de grace is the free dessert. When someone doesn’t order a dessert, he’ll size them up. If they’ve been nice, and look like they can afford it, he’ll buy them dessert. With his own money. Desserts at this place are around $10 to $15, but he can buy them for about a third of that. And, he’s discovered, that most people will be so pleased by the gesture that they’ll happily leave at least the menu price of the dessert on the tip. Brilliant.
So the lesson is: you can test anything. No matter where you work, or what industry you’re in. If it’s somewhere where there’s a lot of human interaction, there are endless things to test. How you approach. How you open. How you offer. How you respond. How you close. Your appearance. How you speak. How much you smile. If you’re in a cubicle or a mailroom, these same things can be tested, with colleagues and superiors, but you can also test every system and every thing you do throughout the day to figure out the best way to do it.
J. Paul Getty visited one of his factories one day and saw one of his men sealing an oil drum with 49 drops of metal. He asked the man what he thought the fewest number of drops would seal the drum, but the man had no idea. Getty said to try 47. The drum leaked. Getty said to try 48. The drum was sealed. That single drop of metal, times the millions of barrels he produced every year, saved a substantial amount of money. Imagine what would have happened if the man had asked the question instead of Getty. He certainly wouldn’t have spent the rest of his career sealing oil drums.