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Why experimenting is more powerful than predicting

A podcast episode recently got me thinking about whether we’ll be ditching our predictions and embracing experiments as we move forward into the next phase of pandemic work-life. Many of us are always forecasting and projecting what might happen next, and struggling to know which step to take, which theory to test, which strategy to stir up can really start to take its toll. Maybe you’ve spent these months being still, sensing the dangers and trying to unscramble which direction will take you to somewhere better. It might be time to start moving, just a little.

Sceptical, fearful, genuinely terrified? We’ve felt these things before. Maybe with less intensity, or in different circumstances, but we have. And we’ve made it through. The only new aspect is how we react now, how we identify what we can bring to each new idea or task, and finding what we can personally offer, and what might offer huge rewards in return.

Action vs. Analysis

It can feel tempting to unpack theories endlessly without responding. To observe and ponder when ‘the right time’ to act might be. Not having a strategy to work with can be utterly paralysing, especially when there have been so many other external stresses on all of our minds.

So, why do we find ourselves overthinking and under-acting? Stefan Thomke wrote that companies might ‘emphasise efficiency, predictability, and winning’, making failed experiments appear wasteful. He argues that to successfully innovate, companies must create an environment which celebrates and encourages the curiosity of its employees. In this sense, whether you’re a leader managing a team of hundreds, or a solo freelancer, actively seeking surprises and craving the reveal of new concepts creates a more productive culture.

Whether you’re experimenting on a side project, or on a larger-scale within your workplace, you won’t get to the data unless you actually do something.

There is no such thing as ‘not deciding’

I keep thinking back to swimming lessons as a child, partially because I’ve been deprived of the local pool for four months now, and partially because it feels like we’re all clinging onto the side of the pool. In essence, making the decision to not let go and staying put. Reluctance and avoidance were and are conscious actions.

There comes a point, surely, when we should stop observing and start doing. I’m hoping that by writing this I’ll start practicing what I preach! I know that procrastination and perfectionism affect many of us, and both are infuriating, but there are rarely environments which are 100% stable and ideal for decision-making. You make it the right time by acting. And even in our inaction, we are still making choices.

‘There is fundamentally no such thing as “not deciding”. Choosing not to decide, or to “wait and see,” is a decision in itself.’

Annie Duke (Author of How to Decide)

Staying on the sidelines is no safer or more comfortable. Reconsidering how we approach work in general has been at the forefront in these past months, and it’s been exhausting. And intense. But moving forward, if we’re to regain some sense of control and get creating, it’s really important to tap into the mindset of acting rather than analysing.

Learning from trying is better than guessing correctly

The same might not apply to stocks and shares and investment plans, but for most goals, trial and error genuinely beats treading water. If we face what intimidates us, and do it regularly, we can let ourselves pursue what we might have originally thought to be impossible. Momentum comes from movement, right? From that first push.

‘The point is, to live everything… Live the questions now.’

Rainer Maria Rilke

Live the questions now. Ask and try and you receive something – Information, data, a mistake to learn from, or a bloody good story.

Consider the risks, yes. Acknowledge that your feet might not touch the floor here. And sure, there might be piranhas lurking – but this is extremely unlikely. The only way to see if you can make it? Let go of the side. Stop guessing, and go for it. Swim.

That doesn’t mean taking a leap of faith alone, however. There’s plenty of support out there. For those who know that they want to take their business further, to accelerate their business growth (or to get their companies in a strong position to sell), The 2Y3X Programme’s next two-part event on July 31st will teach the best planning approaches to take for achieving either of these ambitious goals. For more details and tickets, visit this page.

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