Posted by: Nicholas Davis | February 25, 2009

Musing: On the value of small experiments

Rafael Ramirez, my thesis supervisor at grad school, often talks about “launching small experiments”. For Rafael, life is a giant laboratory, within which ideas can be tested, albeit imperfectly, with minimal resources, and yet potentially yield valuable insights. Some of his proposed experiments aren’t that small in vision; at Davos this year he urged a group of the world’s most powerful financial institution and investor CEO’s to consider ad-hoc collaborations with regulators that might address some of the issues of systemic risk that have savaged markets. But the concept remains the same – consider an innovative change that might have a desired effect, commit to it for a while on a relatively small scale, measure the results, share both the successes and the failures, learn and repeat. Don’t let lack of statistical significance stand in the way of attempting something new.

What small experiments can we launch that might generate evidence of a better way to live, interact, work or promote positive change? I know lots that I SHOULD try – running every morning to see what happens to my energy levels, deleting emails from my inbox and measuring how fast I get through my to-do list etc etc. But I really want to launch more interesting small experiments that have the potential to be a tad more innovative (and not just for your amusement). Something to do with relationships, decision-making or getting through the pile of books besides my bed would be good. Suggestions?

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