The Experimental Approach || How to stop pondering and start doing

Principal 3

( how to stop pondering and start doing )

I have been thinking …… Let’s quickly start by outlining what I will mean by the word “decisions” and “experiments” in context of this short read. If we don’t, the rest of this might end up making no sense and hence bring no value to you at all.

Decisions

Decision are irreversible and long-lasting choices. Decisions, for the purpose of this discussion, are choices you made that feel fixed, rigid and in a way like binary “all or nothing” choices. This way of looking at it, is how probably most of us experience the majority of our decisions. Whether that is in the context of business or our life in general.

Next it would probably be reasonable to separate these “all or nothing” decisions into two segments.

The first segment are decision which truly are irreversible. This segment of decisions might include cases such as getting a child, surgical procedures, which of tonight’s three concerts you should attend and your decision to forever delete the pictures form your last vacation in Spain. Once decided it is extremely hard/impossible to get back to the starting point.

The second segment, are decisions which feel irreversible, but which we (if we think about it) would be able to come back from (reverse) with reasonable effort. Reverse in this case means that you can roughly return to where you left or at least recover to an acceptable worst-case scenario. For now, let’s label these types of “decisions” as “experiments disguised as decisions.

Experiments

Experiments on the other side are a more straight forward. No segmentation here. Experiments are choices that are reversible with reasonable effort and within an acceptable time frame. One could also describe it as trying something, doing a trial run, testing or simply experimenting.

I believe that too few of us frame our choices as experiments. You rarely think about experimenting as a viable option when wanting to or having to make a choice. You don’t experiment whether you enjoy a certain profession, no you choose the one you have always been meant to follow. You don’t experiment with living in a new country, with writing a book, be vegetarian and so on. These typically are viewed as what we defined as decisions and hence fall into the “experiments disguised as decisions” segment. While we have been less prone to embrace experimentation in our private life, companies are slowly catching onto it as they start talking about concepts such as MVPs (Minimal Viable Products), rapid prototyping and A/B tests.

Implications

Decisions Anxiety

When we define things as decisions it typically brings with it a feel of anxiety. It quite literally feels like we give up freedom, which is what it nearly always feels like as we go from having options to picking one of them. The feeling of losing out on all the other options truly hits us hard. In the worst case, it stifles us to a degree that we won’t decide at all and instead linger around in an undefined space of options and potential. These are the people who always talk about what they might like to do but never do it. The people who have big dreams and ambitions for themselves, believe they can achieve them and never do. They simply cannot choose their passions, career, partner, identity or what to order at the restaurant. I know that for me personally, the feeling of fear gets noticeably decreased once I re-frame a decision as an experiment. It does not just enable me to make tough decisions, but make them faster. This in return allows me to learn a lot more. And faster.

 

Core Questions of the “Experiment approach

  1. If I/we tried X would it be possible to reverse to where I am/we are currently?
    • If yes
      • How much effort would it take to reverse?
        • Is it acceptable?
      • How long would it take to reverse?
        • Is it acceptable?
      • If no
        • It’s a decision not an experiment

 

  1. If I/we tried X would it be possible to reverse to an acceptable scenario?
    1. If yes
      • How much effort would it take to reverse?
        • Is it acceptable?
      • How long would it take to reverse?
        • Is it acceptable?
      • If no
        • It’s a decision not an experiment

 

So, what to do next?

Paradigm shift 1

Start viewing decisions that are “experiments disguised as decisions” as what they actually are and start doing instead of pondering.

Paradigm shift 2

Start expanding the time frame within which an experiment has to be reversible. Try to move from immediate reversible, to something for the specific experiment more reasonable. Only a few decisions that fall into the “experiments disguised as decisions” segment require immediate reversibility. A general rule of thumb could be the higher the risk involved, the short the time frame of reversibility is needed.

Paradigm shift 3

Start to further investigate what the worst acceptable scenario is for you or your company. The lower/worse the “worst acceptable scenario” is, the lower is the threshold for reversibility.

Paradigm shift 4

Start to investigate alternative method to return to your current state. Is there an easier way then the one you are currently imagining for getting back to where you are now in case your experiment does not go as planned?

P.S.

If you like me, from time to time fall into the category of those who read this and still feel like they only have decision in front of them that they do not know how to take…………..  Well, from what I know so far: The solution is that we need a better compass for decision making. It is time for a clearer set of values as reference points and hence more work on self-awareness. This holds also true for companies that have a poorly defined identity/core just as much as it does for individuals.

/ Jeldrik

My opinion as off the 29/06/2017. Always keep learning.