Dual Thinking and the Limitations of Hypotheses

This post is by Giff Constable from giffconstable.com

Alex Danco publishes an excellent newsletter Two Truths and a Take and today’s thought provoking essay is all about the limitations of having hypotheses: they can close our minds off to creativity and discovery. Danco writes, “when we analyze the results of an experiment, our mental focus on a specific hypothesis can prevent us from exploring other aspects of the data, effectively blinding us to new ideas.”

This is a common dynamic, and why I tell teams to start with vision before thinking about experiments. You can’t A/B test your way to something great. Vision work also can’t just be at the beginning of the process. You have to constantly return to it, armed with new data and insights. 

Product work is filled with these dual modalities:

  • When brainstorming, it’s best to diverge then converge.
  • In doing customer discovery, there’s a natural on-off cycle: learn; then when the patterns are clear, stop, absorb, and act; then start learning again.
  • Same goes for learning versus shipping — if you spend too much time in either, at the detriment of the other, you either accomplish nothing or accomplish the wrong things.
  • While hammering on risks and hypotheses, you also need to find time to stop and let your mind play, imagine, and get creative with what you are learning.

If you spend too much time in the analytical, or conversely too much time in the imagined, you fall short. Danco talks about how, in science, the (oddly named) “day science” and “night (Read more…)