December  2006     Edition 20

Hypothesis – (noun)

. A reasoned proposal suggesting a possible correlation between multiple phenomena, such as cause and effect.   Example:  IF we do “this”, then “that” will occur; or IF “this” is true, then we should find “that” to be the case.    Using this technique can raise the confidence level that a particular answer or course of action is correct.

How do you know you know?

  You’ve thought about a problem and think you understand a relationship, such as cause and effect, and therefore have come up with a course of action.  How do you know you know the cause and effect?  Here’s a good exercise to conduct once you think you know the answer …


Why did we miss our Sales objective?
Why are our users confused after this step?
Why is the expense growth increasing faster than revenue growth?  

These can be classified as a “Cause and Effect” HeadScratcher, i.e. what is the cause that is producing a result. 

Now, let’s suppose you’ve thought about this, and  you think you know the answer.

Before you act, how do you know that’s the answer?


Spend 5 to 30 minutes thinking it through, from start to finish.  Does it hold together?   Are your conclusions guesses, or based on data?  Are they logical?  Are they deductive or inductive?  If inductive, what’s the probability or history that ensures your conclusion?  Does the logic make sense?


. Write your reasoning down.  Does it still hold together?  Are you missing something?  Writing it down often uncovers holes in your thinking.


. Explain it to someone.  The old “if you can’t teach it, you don’t understand it”.  Do they agree with your reasoning and the evidence you used to draw the conclusions?  Do they add any new evidence or reasoning that supports or contradicts your thinking? 


Create the Hypothesis …  The final test.  Can you predict an outcome by modifying or addressing a bit of the cause.   If you truly understand the cause and effect of something, you should be able to say, “so if we measure this, or do this, then we should find that, or that should happen”.  Now do it, and if you can’t physically do it, then create the Gedanken experiment to test it. 

After you accomplish the above

, maybe you know what you’re talking about, and at the very least, you’ll know it much better than if you’ve just thought about it. 

The Takeaway.
  Understanding why something is, or why it occurs, and being able to predict an outcome based on that understanding will give you the confidence that you truly get it, and can do something about it.   Creating a Hypothesis and testing or verifying the result of the prediction gives you strong evidence that your conclusions are valid.   Most hypothesis and verifications take little time and produce a world of understanding …  Try it … you’ll like it! 

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