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7 Jun 2010

Scientific Method: An Intuitive Perspective

The scientific method’s usefulness falls far short of people’s belief in it. In other words, hype exceeds reality, and it becomes a panacea for solving problems of any type. The emotions behind this belief are so strong that people are often willing to deny, ignore or discount a reality if they cannot “prove” it. Since emotions and relationships often fall in this unproven domain and play important roles in many events, this belief can retard innovation and problem solving where intuitive approaches are viable solutions.

The inherent weaknesses of the scientific method are produced by its strengths as a disciplined inquiry. In its rigid quest to define observations and hypotheses, to control the experimental process, to quantify results and to present conclusions in a manner that can repeat results with different experimenters; the method excludes aspects of reality that aren’t easily observed, defined, controlled, quantified, presented or repeated. For example, something as obvious as good leadership being good for business cannot be addressed by the scientific method. The same holds true for proving that a good sales person sells more than a bad one or that good morale is better for business than bad morale is.

The proof of the scientific method’s inherent weaknesses is the common observation that what works in the laboratory doesn’t necessarily work in reality. That is why the idea must be reintroduced to reality via developmental and engineering phases. This is reflected in everyday life through disclaimers on product guarantees. For example, a window might be guaranteed but only if the homeowner uses the installer recommended by the window manufacturer. In other words, the best window in the laboratory might not be the best in reality because it’s too difficult to install.

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