Mindset of experimentation

(photo courtesy of www.sxc.hu

Experiment like a scientist. (photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

All of us should probably be scientists. And experiments should be part of every day life.

For those who are not scientifically inclined, the idea may appear to be either hogwash, weird or interesting. But then it makes perfect sense even for those with artistic proclivities. The word experiment is derived from Latin ex-piri, which means “to try out.”

It’s a simple action that anyone can do—to try out. Wikipedia defines it as a “method of investigating causal relationships among variables, or to test a hypothesis.”

While the scientific sense of the word evokes images of labs, high-tech gadgetry or tightly-controlled environments, the central idea, to try out, is practical, simple and applicable to most things in life.

Experimentation may go something like this:

1. Write down your goal or hypothesis.

Let’s take an imaginary character and call him John. John is a very busy executive who rarely has time for his family. He feels very detached from his wife and two kids. He’s miserable.

So he decides to conduct an experiment. His goal: to feel closer with his family and have an enriching relationship with them.

2. Find a way to measure your progress.

John, who is good with numbers, tells himself that it would be best if he can quantify his progress toward his goal.

After some thought, he decides that counting the number of dinners with his family every week can be a good start. He thinks two dinners a week is a good initial goal. Another possibility is the frequency of arguments with his wife every week. Since he argues with his wife almost every night, he sets a target of only three arguments a week.

3. Research ways on how to achieve your goal.

John’s problem is that he has too much to do at the office. Gathering his creative juices, he comes up with possible alternatives so he can go home early on some days of the week.

He began to delegate more of his work to a subordinate, who is very capable and reliable. He also began to allot an hour every night just to talk with his wife about her activities during the day.

4. Try out simple solutions.

John thinks that his solutions are reasonable. So he tries them out, making a simple record of counting the number of dinners with his family and the number of arguments with his wife.

Each day, he reminds himself of his goal and executes his simple solutions.

5. Review the results.

After one week, John gathers some initial numbers. After two weeks, he compares the results. He was able to have dinners with his family three times a week. Not bad. The number of arguments with his wife has gone down to three a week.

Quite encouraging, he tells himself. He begins to feel good about his relationship with his family.

6. Make your conclusions and take action.

John concludes that his solutions were effective. He plans to continue applying these simple solutions and monitor his progress for a month.

If the results hold, he will continue what he’s doing. If not, he can tweak his solutions to achieve the desired result, or he can look for other alternatives. That’s what a scientist would do.

These steps describe a mindset of experimentation that may help people with almost anything.

Caveat

Let me caution you, however, that this process of experimentation may also lead to a certain bias. For example, if you study successful and rich people, you may form your own conclusion that all of them are voracious readers. You may find that it is empirically verifiable.

But it could be a trap. Be aware of exceptions. If a successful person exhibited certain characteristics that have been attributed to his success, these characteristics are not guaranteed to lead to success.

There may be exceptions. An unsuccessful person may also exhibit the exact characteristics or behaviors. No one really studies these unsuccessful people. Why? Probably because no one is interested.

And while this may not be essential to the process of experimentation, it’s good to be aware it.

So experiment with this mindset. It may work for you or it may not. You can find out for yourself.

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4 Responses to “Mindset of experimentation”

  1. hi ton! happy weekend.

    you never failed to amaze me with your ideas and wide range of information. well thats the gift of a wide-reader. me? trying to be one.

    i like this topic. it just simply imply that everything is possible if you want it really to happen.

    kudos!

    thanks and Godbless…anye

  2. Very sharp information. Thank you. A great platform for thinking.

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