What role for randomized testing in corporate social policy?

In this new book, “Uncontrolled“, Jim Manzi suggests spending a lot more time testing social policies in controlled groups.

His argument is that Government fails to do this and so bases most decisions on guesstimates. Decisions that we all pay for the implementation and consequences of.

Manzi suggests, uncontroversially, that some businesses, in places, have mastered testing in certain areas.

Here’s some of the Amazon description of the book:

“Jim Manzi argues that various methods have been attempted – except for controlled experimentation. Experiments provide the feedback loop that allows us, in certain limited ways, to identify error in our beliefs as a first step to correcting them.

This technique goes by many names in different contexts (randomized control trials, etc).

Randomized trials have shown, for example, that work requirements for welfare recipients have succeeded like nothing else in encouraging employment, that charter school vouchers have been successful in increasing educational attainment for underprivileged children, and that community policing has worked to reduce crime, but also that programmes which might be politically attractive, can often fail to attain their intended objectives.

Business leaders can also use experiments to test decisions in a controlled, low-risk environment before investing precious resources in large-scale changes”

Which makes me wonder whether this book might make valuable reading for executives in charge of social policy and corporate responsibility spending in large companies.

How much is randomized testing used in working out how community spend is best utilised, for example?

With large company spending on social and ever more localized financial policies going up in the current climate (and unlikely to decline), perhaps some testing might be in order?

My understanding is that current spending is not tested for and against in this way, in most large companies.

Using randomized testing is just another example of where standard smart business practices should be applied to social responsibility management.

I’ll track the book down and report back if I can. Hopefully a podcast with the author is a possibility. More on it is here.

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