The HeadScratcher Post Archive
October 2006
Triangular Thinking

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October  2006               The Headscratcher Post ©  Headscratchers LLC           Edition 18

 

Triangular Thinking is a way to find a solution with indirect measurements and predictions.  It’s related to Triangulation, a method of finding the distance to an object by measuring the angle to the object from two places.

 

A Forecast is a great example of how Triangular Thinking can help.  A forecast predicts a result that you can’t measure until it happens.  It’s like figuring out how long it will take to get to a place whose distance cannot be directly measured.    For those Trigonometry geeks; the diagram below is an example of how to find the distance to the little square without measuring it.

  

If you know angle “a” and “b” and Distance X, then you can calculate Z, the distance to the object.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Crystal Ball.  Some problems, such as a forecast, are a prediction of the future, and therefore cannot be known until that future occurs (unless you have crystal ball).  Triangular Thinking is a way to create that crystal ball.   When you cannot or don’t know how to directly measure something, you can combine different hypothesis, trends, predictions and observations, and “vector in”, or “triangulate” on an answer.

 

The Solution is in the ball.  You can’t open it or see inside.  However if you measure and predict certain outcomes and all seems to “triangulate”  together towards the same conclusion, then there’s a good chance the data, your hypothesis and conclusions are correct.

 


     

                                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                         

So in the case of a Forecast …. Here are some examples;  

If you’re trying to predict the take rate of a certain product, one method (one vector) would be to consider the actual customer acquisition model, for example, maybe direct mail.  If you mail to 100,000 people and you think you’ll get a 2% response, that gives you 2,000 people who will respond.  If you think you’ll close 20% of those, that leaves you with 400 sales.  That’s one number.  Look now at another vector; e.g. Trend.  What has been the track record of new product introductions in the past?  If this new introduction is similar, then you might expect similar results.  Lastly, perhaps look at the industry and competitive offerings and their take rates (through analysts research, etc), and what market share you might expect. 

 

The Triangulation. If all three answers above yield approximately the same value, then you can proclaim that maybe you know what you’re talking about, i.e. they vector in on the same answer, and therefore there is a good probability that this will be true.  Conversely, and just as important, if they don’t “triangulate” then just maybe your hypothesis or assumptions are incorrect and need to be revisited before coming to a conclusion.

 

The Takeaway.  Look for more than one way to come up with a prediction about the future or an explanation of the present.  Use different methods and sources.   Does the logic hold together, and are the results consistent.   Multiple vectors, i.e. Triangular Thinking, will increase the chances your prediction is correct or at the very least, uncover a flaw in your assumptions or conclusions.

 

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