What Hawaiian Pizza can teach us about creating a more inclusive CRO industry

Pineapple on pizza. If you ever want to have a heated debate with a group of people, ask them if pineapple belongs on pizza. You’ll hear arguments about how people should be allowed to like what they like and that should be OK, as well as, pizza is XYZ and that anything different cannot be considered pizza. A quick Google Image search pulls up hundreds of memes supporting both sides of the argument. It’s hard to sort out who is right because it mostly boils down to opinion and context. Some cultures like pineapple more than others. Some cultures grew up with pizza being one thing and nothing else. If you’re from Canada like I am, seeing what kinds of pizza Japanese folks are used to is jarring. But if you’re from Japan, everything seems normal.

Now let’s replace pizza with CRO and pineapple with “best practices” (or whatever topic CROs are angry about on LinkedIn these days). You can see the same sort of passion, the same variety of memes, and the same kinds of arguments being flung in both directions. Of course, as someone in the Experimentation field, I have my opinions, formed from my years of being in certain situations, being raised in certain cities, and working with certain companies. And of course, I have a sense of what is “right”. Also, of course, any side of any argument will pull out facts, and definitions, and blog posts supporting their own side of an argument – but we all know no one is budging. Sides dig in their heels and things get taken heated. 

We live in a culture that often sees topics as two-sided: ours and the enemy’s. Too often we see people who disagree with us as stupid and an evil we have to destroy. We pick apart arguments in an attempt to show the world our way is right and theirs is wrong. But one of the ways that CRO arguments are quite different from pizza is that to get into pizza, all one has to do is buy one and eat it. And you’re in. With CRO, it’s tough to break into. There are skills you need, and heaven forbid you say something wrong in public. As Juliana Jackson put it once, the industry is “Super elitist” and “God forbid someone has a different opinion.” I’ve seen it time and time again. Someone says something, that not everyone aligns with, and the old guard types come in and crush them with mean-spirited comments for all to see.

This needs to stop.

I don’t have answers, but this is a problem. Yes, experimentation is being used by more and more companies and practiced by more and more people around the world – but the adoption is slower than one would hope. It’ll be a long time before it catches up to SEO or Analytics. We need to be more civil. More accepting of different views. As I like to say, we are better together – as much as it pains us at times. We can absolutely be friends with people who disagree with us. You’ll hear arguments saying that if we don’t correct people, we will be allowing harm to be done. I’d respond with, you can disagree, but you don’t have to attack anyone publically. You can take conversations offline and have a phone chat.

While I am passionate about the power of experimentation, it’s not what defines me, nor should it be what defines you as a person. That’s done by how you treat and welcome others into the communities you are a part of. And that’s what I want us to do – make the CRO community more approachable, more inclusive, and more welcoming. Yes, people may make mistakes, and that’s OK. Sometimes what’s a best practice today turns out not to be a great practice later on. And that’s OK. What’s not OK is making CRO an industry that is scary. That is counterproductive for everyone.

Let people have their pineapple. There’s a lot of pizza to go around.

Good luck and see you in 2 weeks!

Rommil Santiago
Founder, Experiment Nation

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Rommil Santiago