When I read this article from the Harvard Business Review, I found myself saying, “Yes!” The blog articulates, in business terms, that a good hypothesis is one that is testable. Companies that simply have a wealth of good ideas are, in the end, not very successful.
Author Michael Schrage writes: Organizations that encouraged, talked up and celebrated good ideas were consistent—almost pathological—innovation underachievers. To be sure, there was serious discussion, debate and analysis around good ideas and how to make them better. But the actual outcomes typically underwhelmed and underperformed, as in “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” These firms, teams, and groups made improving good ideas central to their innovation effort.
He continues: By contrast, the successful innovators I observed spent less time on identifying and developing good ideas and more time testing their hypotheses. In fact, these teams and groups made the testable hypothesis the center of their innovation effort.
Many of the good ideas were very, very good. They were definitely worth developing. But the experiments and their testable hypotheses were ready to go. They provoked a completely different kind of action-oriented discussion than the good ideas. Indeed, a couple of the experiments (as I recall) embodied some aspects of the good ideas. The difference? We could do something with them beyond talk! Testable hypotheses seemed a faster and, frankly, better gateway to innovative action and active innovation. Testable hypotheses encourage and facilitate active experimentation and learning in ways that good ideas simply cannot. Getting organizations to think and act around testable hypotheses instead of good ideas is how organizations have healthier conversation and collaboration around innovation.
Churches are no different than other organizations in this regard. Good ideas abound–ministers, congregants, denominational leaders, conference staff all possess very, very good ideas for enhancing and creating possibilities for ministry. But how many of these ideas are accompanied by hypotheses, as well as the plans (experiments) by which to see whether these hypotheses are confirmed?
For example, an idea to create a second worship service in order to attract younger generations may be a good idea; but a number of testable hypotheses should be created before jumping to direct implementation of this idea. A beginning process around this idea might include the following:
Main hypothesis—Young adults will attend a worship service that is geared toward their attitudes, tastes, and experiences.
– Young adults possess a particular set of attitudes, tastes, and experiences that are different than those of the current congregation.
– There are young adults in the area who would be open to attending a newly-created worship service at this church.
– This congregation possesses the resources, time, and skills/talents necessary to develop a second worship service for young adults.
It seems that each of the related hypotheses requires a thoughtful, yet concrete plan of investigation before the main hypothesis can be confirmed or negated. Many times, committees have discussed these hypotheses and provided their own experiences and opinions on the items above; but rarely have groups actively investigated and pursued those hypotheses within their own communities.
Schrage says: If you want to quickly, cheaply and productively transform your organization’s innovation culture, forbid any and all discussion of good ideas and insist people start framing their innovation proposals in the form of a testable hypothesis. Try it.
What do you think? Should all ideas be testable?