Thinking like a scientist
Our CEO of Results1st was ecstatic. She had just heard from a scientist how helpful our approach had been to her. Jasmin Graham is CEO of MISS—Minorities in Shark Sciences. Jasmin shared this with us:
As a scientist, I’m trained to use the scientific method. The very first step is to make observations. It wasn’t until the Results 1st workshop that I realized I was completely overlooking this practice in our STEM Education and Professional development programs. I was missing out on the impact that I could get by simply paying attention to participants before, during, and after the program. Surveys and scales do not capture this.
This reminded me of a book I recently read, a book called Think Again by Adam Grant. Grant speaks to how being a scientist is not just a profession.
It is a frame of mind—a mode of thinking that differs from preaching, prosecuting, and politicking. We move into scientist mode when we’re searching for the truth: we run experiments to test hypotheses and discover knowledge.
Starting with results seems to me to offer the ability to see reality clearly. If you do it well, you have a rigorous way of knowing just what results are produced from your program. You can compare methods, broaden to larger samples and do the other things scientists do because we have a clear standard of success.
Grant speaks to a study by European researchers that involved over a hundred founders of Italian startup companies. They conducted a four-month training program in entrepreneurship. It was identical except for one element. Half the group was trained in scientific inquiry:
From that perspective, their strategy is a theory, customer interviews help to develop hypotheses, and their minimum viable product and prototype are experiments to test those hypotheses. Their task is to rigorously measure the results and make decisions based on whether their hypotheses are supported or refuted.
The other half, the control group, was trained using standard entrepreneurial thinking. The difference proved very significant. Over the first year after training, the start-ups in the control group (no scientific method) averaged under $300 in revenue. Those in the scientific thinking group averaged over $12,000. The explanation from the researchers was that those taught in the scientific method were far less wedded to their beliefs and pivoted to new approaches more than twice as often.
I see the broader point of bringing the rigor you know to philanthropy. People who have built up businesses can use the tools that helped them to make money to make human gain. Journalists know how to get to the bottom of things. Retail trade folk know how to hear from customers more than those who deliver products. Whatever the rigor in your life, don’t check it at the door when you enter philanthropy!