Learning from innovative businesses about creating a culture of experimentation in government: An interview with Jim Manzi, Author of “Uncontrolled” – Episode #17

Jim ManziHow can public agencies use a test, learn and adapt approach to improve their results? One way is to learn from leading private sector firms that use rapid experimentation to learn what works and improve their operations.

To learn more we are joined by Jim Manzi, the founder and chairman of Applied Predictive Technologies, a business analytics firm. His 2012 book Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics and Society argues for the usefulness of experimental methods—in other words, randomized controlled trials (RCTs)—for addressing important policy issues, from improving education outcomes to increasing economic growth to reducing crime.

In a review of Uncontrolled in the New York Times, columnist David Brooks writes, “Manzi wants to infuse government with a culture of experimentation.” Brooks also notes: “What you really need to achieve sustained learning, Manzi argues, is controlled experiments. Try something out. Compare the results against a control group. Build up an information feedback loop. This is how businesses learn. By 2000, the credit card company Capital One was running 60,000 randomized tests a year — trying out different innovations and strategies. Google ran about 12,000 randomized experiments in 2009 alone.”