The Parent of Learning

elbowHypothesis is a charged word – It has a scientific color; it smacks of sterility; it is thought to be done by academics; and it’s sometimes classified as special class of guessing. In thought and action, hypothesis is misunderstood.

We twist the word so it doesn’t apply in our situation; we label it to distance ourselves; we tag it with snarl connotations to protect ourselves. We do this because we’re afraid of the word’s power.

Replace hypothesis with “I think this will happen – [fill in the blank.]” and it’s clear why we’re afraid.  Hypothesis, as an activity, has the power to make it clear to everyone that you really don’t know what’s going on. Hypothesis demands you speculate based on your knowledge, and the fear is when you’re wrong (and you will be) people will think your knowledge (and you) is of a meager kind. Hypothesis demands you put yourself out there for the world to see. And that’s why it’s rarely done. And since it’s rarely done, its benefits are not understood.

Innovation is all the rage these days, and innovation is all about learning. And where necessity is the mother of invention, hypothesis is the father of learning. Hypothesis breeds learning by providing a comparison between what you thought would happen and what happened. The difference is a measure of your knowledge; and how the difference changes over time is a measure of your learning. If the difference widens over time, you’re getting cold; if it stays constant, you’re treading water; and if it converges, you’re learning.

Like a good parent, hypothesis knows which rules can be bent and which won’t be compromised. In the hypothesis household clarity and honesty are not optional – clarity around the problem at hand; clarity around how you’ll test and measure; and honesty around the limits of your knowledge.

Learning is important – no one can argue – and learning starts with a hypothesis. More strongly, learning is so important you should work through your fear around hypothesis and increase your learning rate.

Really, hypothesis isn’t the stern parent you think. Hypothesis will make time to teach you to ride your bike without training wheels, and be right there to bandage your skinned knees.

And, like a good parent, if you ask hypothesis for help, I think this will happen – [you’ll learn more and learn faster.]

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Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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