Think like a Scientist!

What do we mean by ‘Think like a Scientist!’?P1_scientist_logo

Let’s start by asking you to think of a scientist. Do you picture someone famous you’ve seen on TV? A character from CSI, working in a lab? A medical scientist, researching a cure for a serious illness. Our point is this: there are many kinds of scientists, real and imaginary.

Yet they all have something in common: they use rigorous scientific methods to answer challenging and interesting questions.

And we can be just like them.

Scientists aren’t a breed apart, born with superhuman gifts of intelligence. They’re simply inquisitive and use established scientific methods to get answers interesting and challenging questions.

At the Future Work Centre, we use a scientific approach to explore the world of work and help organisations and individuals make better, more evidence-based decisions.  This means combining a scientific mind-set and a questioning outlook with several other ‘ingredients’ to improve decision-making and challenge misleading claims or organisational myths. We weigh up available evidence and apply it in the context we work in. We challenge simple answers to complex problems and consider the risk of unintended consequences when we take action.

Put simply it means finding out what works, in what way and for whom. We think everyone could benefit from thinking like a scientist more often, especially when faced with difficult decisions.

From thinking critically about the claims made by a supplier about their product or service, through to evaluating the effectiveness of systems and approaches at work, we can use a scientific mindset to help us make better quality decisions and investments.

The limits of human decision-making

Whilst we don’t set out to make poor decisions, a combination of internal factors (e.g. emotions, faulty logic) and external factors (e.g. poor quality information or information overload) can mean we make poor decisions on a surprisingly frequent basis.

We often use a combination of experience, ‘gut feel’ and personal preference when making decisions, which is absolutely fine when selecting from a restaurant menu, but less effective when making important decisions at work.

What about when we’re hiring new staff? Or evaluating someone’s performance to calculate their annual bonus? When we’re making a large organisational investment in new technology or processes? How helpful is gut feel then?

Without considering evidence, without thinking more scientifically, we leave ourselves open to wasting time, money and effort. We remain susceptible to the many fads and fashions that are so prevalent in the workplace, whose impact is disruptive as well as expensive. We miss the opportunity to find out how things work and therefore, how they could be improved.

So here’s our challenge to you: what’s the next important decision you need to make at work where you could think like a scientist? What opportunities do you have to ask for more evidence and weigh it up objectively?

A good starting point is to read our white paper called ‘Think like a Scientist!

If you’d like to know more about how the Future Work Centre can help you and your team think more scientifically, contact us on

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