Back in the day, I agreed to chair the science fair at our neighborhood elementary school. As a mom, I had visions of making the science fair cool and fun. And thanks to a host of great volunteers, we did just that. But in return, I learned something far more valuable.
A reminder of the power of the scientific method that I use to this day.
The scientific method at work
Didn’t we leave alka seltzer-erupting volcanoes and potato clocks in the past? How the heck does the scientific method show up in my everyday work?
Well, it has to do with the f-word: failure.
When it comes down to it, I think there are two powerful forces at work that keep us from making progress: the tyranny of now (that I’ve written about before) and the fear of making a mistake or failing.
While there are endless productivity hacks, apps, gurus and books, the one thing that’s worked for me when I’m feeling stuck—we probably all learned in elementary school.
Today we’re digging into the scientific method to understand how it can be used as a valuable tool for problem-solving and decision-making in your organization.
Identify the problem or question: It’s tempting to skip right over this crucial first step in favor of diving into the deep end of potential fixes. Neglect this step at your peril. A clearly defined problem or question sets the stage for solutioning and grounds you in the “why”.
Conduct background research: Gather relevant information and data about the problem or question at hand. It’s always helpful to ask yourself what you already know about the current situation, name the decisions that have already been made, and consider reviewing existing studies, market research reports, industry trends, customer feedback, or internal data within your organization. I love the PEST analysis at this stage.
Formulate a hypothesis: What’s your hunch about how you might address the problem or question? This is the perfect place to get curious rather than jumping to conclusions; set forth your educated guess.
Design an experiment or study: That’s right, test your idea. In Design Thinking, this is often done through prototyping as a way of testing your hypothesis to determine what might be possible in a given situation.
Collect and analyze data: As you’re testing your hypothesis, new information will be revealed—sometimes in the form of new data—and often in terms of new insights. The point of gathering the information is to draw meaningful conclusions. We’re still not deciding, we’re discovering.
Draw conclusions: The data you collect can be quantitative or qualitative, or both, depending on the problem or challenge you’re tackling. Bring the spirit of a “curious anthropologist” as you examine the results of your analysis to help you evaluate whether your hypothesis is supported or refuted. Consider the implications of your findings for your organization and the original problem or question you were investigating.
Make decisions and take action: Based on your conclusions, you can now make informed decisions about how to address the problem or question. You also have context for considering the potential risks, benefits, and feasibility of different courses of action. The challenge now rests in creating transformational change incrementally: by encouraging people to mobilize small but significant “15-percent initiatives” that can snowball in their impact.
Communicate results: Share your findings, conclusions, and recommendations with relevant stakeholders in your organization. Clearly communicate the insights gained from applying the scientific method and how they contribute to better decision-making and business outcomes.
Iterate and improve: The scientific method is an iterative process. Use the results and feedback from implementing your decisions to refine your understanding of the problem and develop new hypotheses.
Remember that the scientific method emphasizes objectivity, rigorous analysis, and evidence-based decision-making. By applying this approach in an organizational setting, you can increase the effectiveness of your problem-solving efforts and make more informed decisions.
And, who knows, maybe you’ll get bitten by the science bug!