Pragmatists will grow the CRO industry – not purists – with Matt Scaysbrook

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Matt Scaysbrook 0:00
If you ask questions and you demonstrate, you know, this is the way that I’m currently doing things, what do other people what do other people think when those when those views are put forwards, the purist tends to take aim at anything that they see as being as being imperfect. And that nobody wants to be embarrassed, especially publicly about the way that they’re doing things in their day job. And so that negativity means that you will be driving, you will be driving those questions underground, people will stop asking and stop challenging, because they’re just worried about sticking their head above the parapet.

Matt Scaysbrook 0:56
Any industry to thrive, it needs new entrants. It needs new people in with new ideas, fresh perspectives, a different ways of approaching your age old problems. And it needs people who, who aren’t constrained by the existing thinking within that industry, you know, that aren’t held back because they they see areas where improvements can be made, and they and they don’t, and they don’t just carry on doing things, because that’s the way they’ve already always done it. A friend of mine in the experimentation industry once told me that the quality of ideas was equal to the quantity multiplied by the diversity of those ideas.

Matt Scaysbrook 1:47
So if you apply that to the industry as a whole, our industry will only grow in quality, if our practitioner base grows in quantity, and in diversity, and it’s in that quantity and diversity area, that I think we’ve got a bit of a problem that we need to we need to address. And that is in the fact that our industry isn’t always isn’t always a welcoming place to be. I think, too frequently I have seen the negativity the comes from that comes from people sharing the way that they’re currently doing things. And that being perceived as as, as substandard. And I think too many of us are, are ready to or more ready to try and stamp on on those sorts of things than they are to provide the support that would help to that would help to educate and lift and lift that knowledge up.

Matt Scaysbrook 2:54
And that that’s what I’d like to talk about today. To do that, I’m going to use a couple of generalized practitioner types that represent the represent extremes. For for the purpose of illustrating this point now, no one that I know fits perfectly into either of these types, and that’s me included within that. But I do think they they offer, they offer an insight into what our industry may look like from the outside. And also for those who are you know, just coming into, into the inner circle. So I would like to introduce to you the purist and the pragmatist. So the purist has utter and total commitment to the experimentation course. They wholeheartedly believe in the value that it brings to organizations, and how critical it is for for both the growth and the innovation of those organizations. But the purist sees the world in black and white. There are a list of do’s there are a list of don’ts. And generally speaking, that list of don’ts is far larger than the list of do’s the purist is so convinced of of their rectitude, and their way of doing things is the right way of doing things that they struggle to consider.

Matt Scaysbrook 4:39
Other other options, other routes that could be taken. And all of that all of that sense of rectitude is backed by the fact that the purist does have extensive, almost encyclopedic knowledge of the experimentation industry. They’ve got All of the, they seem to have all of the bases covered. But that leads to an insular way of looking at things, you know, less open to less open to fresh perspectives. The purist also has a somewhat apocalyptic outlook on the industry, believing that if they don’t, if they don’t stamp down on what they see as substandard practice that the industry will career off a cliff, you know, or an all of the sort of trust and faith in that’s been built up over the years will die, because of people doing things in a in an imperfect way. What the purist fails to see, though, is that their core belief in the importance of growing and developing the industry is in direct contradiction with the outcomes of the way that they talk. That that negativity is at risk of breaking the quantity and diversity elements. If that if that innovation equation that we that we looked at earlier.

Matt Scaysbrook 6:21
They’re, they’re black and white views have have a couple of really negative impacts. So firstly, they they discourage, they discourage people from asking questions. If you ask questions, and you demonstrate, you know, this is the way that I’m currently doing things, what do other people what do other people think when those when those views are put forwards, the purists tends to take aim at anything that they see as being as being imperfect. And that nobody wants to be embarrassed, especially publicly about the way that they’re doing things in their day job. And so that negativity means that you will be driving, you will be driving those questions underground, people will stop asking and stop challenging, because they’re just worried about sticking their head above the parapet. Also, the that that negative vibe that creates a sense that this is not an inclusive, this a normal inclusive industry to be in where perspectives from different angles are not are not valued. And that is a that is a real problem. If you’re trying to grow the quantity and the diversity of where your ideas come from the purists, industry knowledge and deep industry knowledge should be one of the greatest assets that we have.

Matt Scaysbrook 8:02
But too frequently, it seems to be used as a weapon, more of a stick to beat people with than it does to, to try to educate and bring people bring new entrants up to up to the kind of level that the purist is at. That to me risks brain drain from from the industry. And that is significantly more of a threat than, you know, isolated substandard practices that might go on so the purist feels righteous, but they are Compounding the problem they are trying to solve because of the approach that they’re taking to try to solve it. Now, on to the pragmatist, for the pragmatist experimentation is a job. It’s not the be all and end all of their lives, it is a job. They still believe in the value that experimentation can bring to organizations, but they are more focused on the individuals that operate within the industry. And with the with the view of the improvement of individuals is what will raise the industry as a whole. So unlike the purists, the pragmatist sees the world as gray, it depends is a much more common answer for them than yes or no. Would be and whilst they still have a list of do’s and don’ts, they are focused on the positive delivery. If those if those messages talking more about what should be done and less about what shouldn’t be done.

Matt Scaysbrook 9:56
The pragmatist strength is within there inclusiveness, they they understand that ideal practices are only possible under ideal conditions. And that true experimentation requires a path to be traveled. You can’t just parachute in the perfect experimentation framework into an organization and expect it to work. So they look at, they look at practitioners of all levels and attempt to be accepting of what’s being done knowing that it can be developed over time with that with that positive attitude, and the belief that by doing that, at an individual level, the industry as a whole moves forward. That the pragmatists big fear is that the the absolutist nature of the purist is going to stifle that participation and therefore throttle the innovation. But the pragmatist messages are difficult, you know, that they they struggle with cut through, because they have that it depends outlook, absolute statements are difficult for them. And it is a well, you know, is a well known fact that absolute statements provide greater cut through than, then relative ones. And with those, those absolute statements being the area in which the purest thrives cause of that, that black and white view, they tend to dominate the discourse.

Matt Scaysbrook 11:45
For the pragmatist, the focus on on individual development is something of a public challenge, too, because they are looking at it as a, a bottom up approach. Whereas the purest, you know, top down here is a structure that everyone should follow approach. That is, that’s big picture. And so it’s much easier to communicate that scale. So the pragmatist is effectively the accusation is thinking too small. And with so much of the pragmatist focus being on work that happens behind closed doors, it also ends up being significantly under the, you know, under the radar. Also, for, for the pragmatist, their willingness to support imperfect practice under imperfect conditions, can also be, it can also be a public weakness, if the if the purist decides to take aim at it or jump on it. Using inclusiveness as a defense just just seems soft. And so it makes the it leaves the pragmatist in a place where their their position feels borderline indefensible. And because the pragmatist is so focused on inclusiveness by the very nature they avoid, they avoid scenarios in which division could be the, the the obvious outcome. So if they get involved in a, in a pragmatist versus purist pitch battle, they’re likely to they’re likely to pull back or likely more likely to concede. And therefore, again, they’re the public communication of those messages is so much more difficult people read them and then see them back down. Within that, within that discussion.

Matt Scaysbrook 13:47
With those examples, the the obvious question, as it always is, in our industry is so what, what do we do with that? What do we do with those, those examples? So, for me, we need the purist and we need the pragmatist, we need them both. But we also need both of them to be willing to change or to embrace the best and the worst within each other. A rationalized approach to inevitable change is something that is is core to to experimentation as a as an industry and so we need to start looking at practicing within our own behaviors, what we would preach to, you know, to organizations. If you if you recognize any of the purist in yourself, I would ask you to consider that. Each and every one of us started at a an imperfect level. And frankly, we’re all still in an imperfect level. How Wherever knowledgeable you are, however good your structures, practices and processes are, none of them are perfect, and they never will be. If you want to increase and improve those, what you what you will need is the support of others, whether that person has been in the industry for five minutes, five years or five decades, the support of others is, is what helps us to what helps us all to develop.

Matt Scaysbrook 15:29
And if you if you see some of that some of that period in you, you have the knowledge necessary to help a lot of people to become better at what they do. It isn’t that you don’t know it, it is the way that you are communicating it that is holding everyone back. From the pragmatist side, if you if you hear you know, or see shades of yourself, within that, I would urge you to consider the next few things. So, firstly, do not do not be afraid. You may not be, you know, may not be somebody who seeks you who seeks confrontation. But there is a lot of value in in the beliefs that you have, and I think some of those are core to, to improving the overall quality of our industry. So, I would ask you to be to be ready to stand up for those. The pragmatist needs to consider how the how the purest knowledge can best be harnessed. And how they can help those how that purist can be educated in their own way, about the effectiveness of of how they have how they message things.

Matt Scaysbrook 17:00
And lastly, from the pragmatist side, whilst it may not be in their nature to to lead publicly, there is going to be there is a vanguard of sorts that will be required in order to in order to pull the those two disparate, those two disparate types together. So in summary, we need the best of both. We need the purist with their, with their sheer weight of knowledge. We need that to be we need that to be brought to the fore and delivered in in a more inclusive and a more diplomatic fashion. And for the pragmatist, we need the we need their innate inclusiveness skills, you know, in order to in order to bring the purists within that within that inclusiveness as well. As we talked about the start the quality of ideas equal is equal to the quantity of those ideas and the diversity of those ideas, and is though those two, those two latter elements of that formula that we really need to work on. Don’t forget that every experiment, every knowledge and experience level works every day, to be a little bit better than they were at the start of that day. And our industry needs them. Each and every one of them

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