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Conduct the right analysis

Having identified a set of hypotheses you need to test them. To do so, you need to conduct tests that can help you rule out some of the hypotheses. Sounds obvious, right?

Unfortunately, conducting the right analysis is not always (or perhaps even hardly ever) our preferred way of proceeding. In a classic article published in 1964 in Science, John Platt made the case that Pasteur was able to have a prolific career in a number of unrelated fields because he was particularly good at asking the right questions and conducting the right analysis to test his hypotheses. Pasteur shined because his competitors weren’t as skilled.

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Use inductive, deductive, and abductive logic

Most of us have heard of inductive and deductive logic. Fewer have heard about abductive, and yet, all three are needed to solve complex problems effectively.

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Did Chris Froome dope to win the 2013 Tour de France? Part 3 – Conclusion

In our previous two posts (1 and 2), we talked about Froome’s dominant victory in the 2013 Tour de France to see if we could diagnose it: did he win fair and square or did he cheat?

Let’s finish that analysis.

Our diagnostic strategy involves only a few steps:

  1. Break down the key question into its parts, and summarize the result in a set of ICE hypotheses,
  2. Conduct a preliminary screening of the hypotheses to decide if it’s reasonable to discard some,

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Did Chris Froome dope to win the 2013 Tour de France? Part 2

Last week, we talked about how we can evaluate whether Chris Froome doped to win the 2013 Tour de France. Let’s retake the issue where we left it.

Building the diagnostic map

With our problem-solving approach, we use a diagnostic map (or a diagnostic issue tree) to break down the stem question into its various components before summarizing those in a set of independent and collectively exhaustive (ICE) hypotheses. In this case we came up with 3 hypotheses:

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Did Chris Froome dope to win the 2013 Tour de France? Part 1

If you go on any cycling-related forum these days, there is a raging controversy: Did Chris Froome dope to win the 2013 Tour de France?

The arguments on both sides echo those that we’ve heard for all doping cases. Also pretty common is how the conversation tends to be argumentative in the wrong way: “He didn’t dope because X”, “Yes he did because Y”, “This is ridiculous, you’re an idiot.”, and so on until the whole conversation becomes an exercise in name calling with little substance about the original case.

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Look for confirming evidence too

A few weeks ago, we talked about the importance of looking for disconfirming evidence when testing hypotheses. Indeed, this is vital, but, in some situations, supporting evidence might actually be the one helping you reach a solid conclusion. So, don’t discard it.

In some settings, disconfirming evidence is inconclusive

Bazerman and Neale, which we discussed in our previous post, reported Wason’s work that disconfirming evidence was the critical one. Wason’s work has been hugely influential over the past half century, in part because it came roughly at the same time as Popper’s approach to evidence. In the 80s, Klayman and Ha used it to shed light on what is meant by “looking for disconfirming evidence:”

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Use a MECE structure but let your ideas be ICE

We’ve talked a few times about being mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (or MECE) in your thinking:

First, we talked about how MECE thinking is useful because it helps ensure that your approach has no overlaps (ME) and no gaps (CE). Then we looked at ways to be more MECE in your thinking by being CEME. And we’ve also addressed the fundamental issue of MECE thinking in problem solving: that your true intent is not to find solutions that are truly mutually exclusive but rather independent because being ME requires a preclusion. So, rather, we introduced the idea that you should think about being ICE (independent and collectively exhaustive) instead. This seems to be confusing, so let’s see if we can clarify the whole thing.

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Don’t trust your intuition

A few month ago, we talked about how intuition can be misleading. In brief, we all tend to trust our intuition more than we should. All of us. Yes, that includes you.

Not convinced?

Here is a little exercise to see how well you are doing (again, this is stolen from Bazerman and Neale, p.56-58):

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First, be nice. Then, mirror

Have you ever had a coworker that you felt was a bit of a bully? Maybe a flat out autocrat, or someone that makes you feel that, most of the time, he is just not cooperating. How do you deal with this?

This can happen when there is a mismatch between the collective and the individual interests of the parties. Then, each actor must decide whether they want to cooperate (seek the collective interest) or defect / compete (pursue their own interest).

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Look for disconfirming evidence

Bazerman and Neale, in their excellent Negotiating rationally, talk about a problem they have given to their class (p.62):

Here is a three-number sequence: 2–4–6. Your task is to discover the numeric rule that produced these numbers. To determine the rule, you can generate other sets of three numbers that we will acknowledge as either conforming or not conforming to the actual rule. You can stop producing sets of three numbers when you think you’ve discovered the rule. How would go about this task?

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