Instructional Designers: Harness The Power Of Scientific Thinking

Summary: To be clear, scientific thinking and thinking about science are not the same. Here I am describing and discussing how to think in a way that scientists are trained to think, and your employees not so much.

Why Scientific Thinking Is So Important

Why look at scientific thinking? Well, let me begin with this: Like it or not, you and your colleagues, friends, and family are a curious and unique set of individuals. This revelation can be an obstacle or an opportunity.

This revelation is an obstacle, because as a society we are trained to think in answers, not questions. We train people by giving them the answers and demanding that they memorize them, when in fact people are by nature curious and want to think in questions.

People are also unique. No two finger prints, facial characteristics, irises, or DNA are identical. Add to that no two life-experiences are the same. Yet we, as a society, have made this uniqueness an obstacle by treating people as if they were all the same.

The opportunity is obvious. A quick look at our history as Homo Sapiens tells us that what has made us unique is that we have turned curiosity into a way of life and a way of conducting ourselves, indeed we have turned our curiosity into science.

Think about our curiosity. Look around, we are by nature restless. We always seem to want or even need to move from our current state to one where we feel a need to be: To make change the norm. Since the ancient Greeks we have perceived change as the normal state of things:

You can never step in the same river twice.” – Heraclitus, 2500 years ago

Change is inevitable, since everything is in the process of fulfilling its potential: An acorn is becoming a tree, a boy is becoming a man, and an employee is evolving –or not– into a better employee. However, the tree, the boy, and the employee all need help and intervention. The acorn needs time, sun, soil, and moisture. The boy needs time and nurture. What does the employee need? Time and nurturing.

Compounding the problem is that the fact that you and your employees, along with your company, are all moving through a space-time trajectory that is changing exponentially. And the only way to manage in this new era is by adaptation, and the only way to adapt to change is to be as proactive as possible. And that means speculating about the future. Ensuring your speculations have a better chance of being right is the challenge when managing change.

The basic job description of all those involved in a business enterprise is fundamentally to manage change. And the two weapons at your disposal are the natural curiosity of your team, and the uniqueness of those team members. This is an appeal for you as instructors to explore the scientific thing method in order to adapt to change.

You will need these weapons since we as a society have seen fit to quash curiosity by imposing a school system that values answers over questions, and in the process we have homogenized our citizens, despite the obvious diversity of social backgrounds and varied skills we see around us. But those are the people with whom you must work.

It behooves instructors of all kinds to make sure that curiosity is welcomed and celebrated and diversity is leveraged. The question is “How?”.

Scientific Thinking Is The Only Way To Manage Change!

In today’s business world we all have two choices: Do things the way we have always done them or try innovative thinking as a way to adapt. Paraphrasing Darwin, perhaps one of the best scientific thinkers ever, – it’s not the strongest or smartest that survive, it’s the ones who adapt to change.

So, here’s what we know: We know what is known, and we have the ability to assume or hypothesize what is yet to become known. The scientific method of thinking is the main process by which we can make more unknowns known. It’s like Algebra – using what we know to discover what we don’t yet know. Darwin took great care to satisfy himself that his theories were correct before publishing them. You should too.

To begin with, it is important to understand that something being known has two levels of certainty – conjecture, when it remains in the realm of theory and immortality, when it is settled fact. How often have you asked if something is an immortal fact or whether it is generally accepted but not yet a settled and provable fact? If you have not distinguished between the two in your effort at managing change you will be much more prone to error.

So, scientific thinking is a series of techniques, using thought processes and known facts, to investigate phenomenon (observable occurrences) for the purpose of gaining new knowledge.

To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical evidence (information that justifies a belief in the truth or falsity of a claim) or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.

The scientific method is continuous systematic feed-back loop of observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. It is a method in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, an hypothesis is formed and empirically tested for truthfulness. If you are not doing this you are reducing the possibility of adapting to change considerably.

The scientific method is a process for creating models of the natural world that can be verified experimentally. The scientific method requires making observations, recording data, and analyzing data in a form that can be duplicated by others. In addition, the scientific method uses inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning to try to produce useful and reliable models in an attempt to find the best solution.

It is safe to assume that your employees, colleagues, and team members have not been exposed to this kind of thinking in their K16 education. They have mostly been exposed to repeated testing of their knowledge of immortal facts. The unknowns you wish them to discover are a double mystery for them: They do not know how to go about uncovering unknowns; and their creativity which was so apparent in grade school is now a thing of the past.

One Solution

The Terego Method© is a proven method of team-working based on Socratic Inquiry with the sole purpose of helping team members uncover problems, think critically about them, and communicate an agreed proposal for a solution. Click here to watch a free eight minute Power Point video of how a group of employees used the method to address a problem.

If you want to know more, you can buy my book “A Thought Leader’s Guide To Enterprise Teams” here.

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