Monthly Archives: September 2014

Using Hypotheses to Become a Better Thinker

Using hypotheses can help us become clearer thinkers, save us time, and help us communicate succinctly. We can use them wherever we’re not sure and care enough about getting to a good answer. They’re at the heart of scientific problem solving, and have been used by great thinkers since before our boy Aristotle. Wherever I’ve trained the use of hypotheses, people find it a refreshing and mind opening approach. I hope it’s worthy of your attention.

Let me say what I mean by stating a hypothesis. All we are saying is: “This is what I suppose given what I know right now.” That’s all. It’s our first venture at an answer, and acts as a starting point in getting to a good solution. We could be supposing anything from “Miranda will be the best leader for the company” to “evolution explains everything.”

Our hypothesis is a working answer that we hold gently and challenge hard. By stating this working answer, and making it tangible, we give ourselves something concrete to test with thinking and evidence. Our job is to challenge it: “Does it cover things completely? Is it consistent with observations? Does it make sense logically? Is it unequivocal with no room for misunderstanding? Is it simple enough to be obvious? Can I think of any exceptions that hole my beautiful hypothesis below the water line?” As we challenge our working answer with evidence and clear thinking, we expect it to change, just like the detective’s naive first guess in an episode of CSI. If we’re really hungry investigators or expansive thinkers, we’re rarely happy until our first guess has been challenged and changed at least a couple of times.

As we go through this process, our hypothesis slowly solidifies into a thesis; our supposition turns into our position on the matter. In some cases, we might even get to the verifiable truth: “It was Professor Plum whodunit,” or, “This business will be profitable.” Often, we’ll never know the truth but will run with our best thesis: “John will be the best Governor,” or, “profit share is the right incentive scheme.”

Starting by stating what I suppose has a host of advantages over just asking questions or musing distractedly. It forces me to be concrete about what I think, which highlights weaknesses and makes my thinking better. It turns my perspective into one of a humble investigator who welcomes challenge, as opposed to a blustering know-it-all or a vague wonderer. It gives me a focus for my investigative efforts. It enables me at any stage to be explicit about my current position on the matter, being overt about where I’m confident and where I’m unsure. I can communicate my position at any time, so that other people can understand, challenge and contribute.

Using a hypothesis has drawbacks, typically because of using it badly. The biggest is that we get attached to our hypotheses and slip into trying to prove them. We’re all guilty of this, though it’s an even easier trap to fall into if we don’t think by hypothesis, and so don’t welcome self-challenge or new insight.

Hypotheses are essential to the scientific problem solving that guided Newton and the analytical rhetoric that guided Madison and Martin Luther King. Everyone that learns the skill becomes a better thinker. If you use hypotheses, you’ve got exalted company in Aristotle, Cicero, every mechanic or plumber who actually fixes your problem, every great fictional detective and, I suppose, some real ones too.

Why We Set Up Kardelen Training

We set up Kardelen Training for 3 simple reasons:

  • we’re convinced that training can be a superbly valuable, enduring investment, as long as the right skills are trained in the right way;
  • our method of training – practice and mastery of essential skills – results in consistently strong improvements in performance, but is rare in the corporate world in the subjects we train;
  • selfishly, we love working with smart people who are taking time to master new skills and develop their abilities.
Good Training is an Outstanding Investment

We want to spend our time doing something that gets results; and the facts are relentless about how training the right skills in leadership, management and self development increases both performance and satisfaction. Training in intelligent goal setting creates reliable single and double digit performance improvements. People trained in sound leadership skills strongly outperform their control group peers. Leadership teams trained to develop inspiring but well-rounded missions financially outperform those without.

We see results like these ourselves from the first day we train, as our participants begin to apply and master the skills we teach. Participants’ companies start to see the benefits of those skills the day they get back to work.

We Only Train Skills That Work in a Way That Works

From the outset of Kardelen, we plan only to train skills that we know improve performance. We believe the burden of proof is on us as a training provider to find out what genuinely gets real world results, so we do the background work to know that with confidence. We review studies on what does and does not improve performance, we run our own surveys, and we see the results of our own training.

This is why we train effective goal setting, which is one of the most compelling areas of performance improvement, but we don’t train SMART goals or stretch goals, which miss critical steps. It is why we train how to set inspiring visions and coherent missions, which have excellent records of success when done well, but we don’t train strategic tools, which have a typically negative effect on the performances of companies that apply them. We will continue to grow the subjects we train, but we will only train what works.

We also only want to train with a method that works. We believe that teaching insightful concepts is important, but we believe that most of the challenge and benefit from training comes from applying those concepts skilfully in real life. This is why we describe our work as skills training. We introduce a small number of new skills, and spend the bulk of our time practising those skills in progressively difficult circumstances relevant to our participants.

We know our training is better if it’s enjoyable. Our participants are more engaged, open to learning, and keen to test out new skills if they’re having fun, so we make it fun.

We don’t plan to train every important management and leadership skill. We only want train subjects where we think we have something distinctively good to add. There are plenty of experienced people doing excellent training in technical subjects, like finance, systems and operational improvements.   We have nothing new or distinctive to offer in these subjects, so we leave them to the people who are already doing an excellent job.

We Like Working with Smart People Who Want to Get Better

The main reason we set up Kardelen, though, is that we love to work with smart people who want to improve and who want their teams to flourish. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to work with these people, as they get stuck in, practising and mastering essential skills, and integrating those skills their daily way of operating.