Learning Plan

What can public radio learn about financial sustainability by applying rigor to experimentation?

Description & Purpose

BizLab designed a simple process to help us collaborate with stakeholders in a way that will uncover potentially new/stronger revenue streams.

Step 1 Talk with people inside and outside the station to identify challenges/opportunities and develop a hypothesis.
Step 2 Create a Learning Plan and run an experiment.
Step 3 Scale bigger by exploring how our findings can apply to larger systems.

The Learning Plan was conceived because BizLab was in need of a structure that framed our experiments in a consistent way, so that we could make clear decisions on how to invest our limited time and money. We set out to design something that would help our team understand the work ahead. What assets did we need? Did we have to build something? What business model will we test? What will we measure? What is the expected outcome? We tested various modeling frameworks, and concluded that was advantageous to create our own, specifically tailored to the needs of a non-profit news organization.

  1. Pose a research question: How will you guide and center your experiment?
  2. Format: How is the content delivered?
  3. Users: What groups of people will you target and why?
  4. Stakeholders: Who are the participants you will rely on and what do they gain?
  5. Business Model: Who pays for the effects? How and why?
  6. Experiment Definition: Given the parameters, define 5 or fewer areas to test.
  7. Effect: What will we measure?

WBUR BizLab has been a powerful change agent.  We've come a long way from the days of ‘brainstorming in a vacuum’ in the pre BizLab days. Now we incorporate design thinking, user stories, and data-driven analytics as we go about strategic planning and problem solving.

John Davidow, Digital

Current Status

We used a Learning Plan to help frame our Magic Pill, Bench, and Blockchain experiments, and will continue to use and iterate this framework in the future. We aim to keep projects lean so that we can react rapidly to change and scale quickly when appropriate. Every experiment is conducted following agile project management principles. This practice allows us to communicate efficiently across inter-departmental teams and encourages repeated iterations of our cycle. We applied this approach starting with the formation of BizLab itself and carrying on through to our foundational research.

Future Goals

We aim to inspire five other stations to adopt the Learning Plan as a way to help us scale up the number of well documented revenue-generating experiments occurring in public media. Download our PDF to start an experiment in your organization and please drop us a line if you do!