How Likely is It?

How Likely is It?

Photo of an 8 ball

This month’s Vanguard Newsletter arrived in my inbox today. There’s always something interesting in it. This time I found this sentiment:

“No amount of evidence can shift a mind-set.”

~ John Seddon

Coincidentally, I came across this Feynman quote this morning and wondered.

“A scientist is never certain. We all know that. We know that all our statements are approximate statements with different degrees of certainty; that when a statement is made, the question is not whether it is true or false but rather how likely it is to be true or false. ‘Does God exist?’ When put in the questional form, ‘how likely is it?’ It makes such a terrifying transformation of the religious point of view, and that is why the religious point of view is unscientific. We must discuss each question within the uncertainties that are allowed.”

~ Richard Feynman

So, how likely is it that evidence will shift organisations out of their ineffective mindsets?

Maybe if we phrase our “challenging questions” as Feynman suggests, we may at least begin to make these topics discussable, and thence amenable to ‘scientific’ enquiry? Would this be one possible entry point into the shifting of mind-sets?

Some Examples

“How likely is it that ‘management’ is an idea still relevant for business? For our business?”

“How likely is it that if we place trust in people, things will fall apart?”

“How likely is it that if we coerce people they will appreciate it and work harder?”

“How likely is it that punishment or the implied threat of punishment will motivate people to do a better job?”

“How likely is it that avoiding conflict and the discussion of ‘taboo’ subjects will help us address our problems?”

“How likely is it that us focussing our attention on controlling costs will help our customers better achieve their purpose?”

“How likely is it that expecting folks to be busy all the time will produce the good behaviours – like innovation, creativity, engagement, quality and customer service – we want to see?

“How likely is it that the way we hire people, and the people we hire, will help our business change in the ways we’d like to see?”

How likely is it that reframing these questions will encourage folks to more often and more effectively consider the issues?

– Bob

Further Reading

On the Role of Scientific Culture in Modern Society ~ Richard Feynman

5 comments
  1. I’d say the sad reality is that for many folks it takes a hard crash with reality to get them to stop and think – especially think in a way that questions the status quo.

  2. To answer the last question “How likely is it that reframing these questions will encourage folks to more often and more effectively consider the issues?”: Very likely, and important! Thanks Bob for reminding us of these issues!

  3. Great post, Bob.

    I’ve read through your list of questions several times and I find there is something really quite powerful about the words “How likely is it….”.

    For example:-

    “How likely is it that if we place trust in people, things will fall apart?”

    …..feels more powerful to me than:-

    “Do you think that if we place trust in people, things will fall apart?”…..or
    “Do you believe that if we place trust in people, things will fall apart?”…..or plainly
    “If we place trust in people, will things will fall apart?”.

    Thanks for the post.

    Regards
    Mark

  4. YvesHanoulle said:

    This is why I love leanstartup.
    With leanstartup you verify your assumpttions, each and everyone of them.
    And look for data that supports Your idea’s before you continue building.

    Y

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