“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison.
Many people believe that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. The truth is that he did not. It had been around for several years. In fact, there were more than twenty other inventors and scientists working on the light bulb when Edison started on his. What separated Edison from the others is that he was the first to achieve a light bulb that lasted for many hours. Edison succeeded by creating a vacuum inside the bulb and finding the proper filament to use.
Thomas Edison succeeded by repeatedly experimenting until he found the right solution. He made over 1,000 unsuccessful attempts until he did succeed. To Edison, those 1,000 attempts weren’t failures, they were 1,000 steps toward success. By thinking and using habits like Edison and other great scientists, we can learn how to change our mindset and innovate new ideas. Here are 7 habits that can help you think like a scientist.
1. Expect Failure and Then Learn From It
You’re rarely ever going to get something perfect on the first try. When you don’t get it right, learn from it. Scientists treat failure as a data point. As a matter of fact, it’s also how they treat positive results. Data points eventually lead to an answer. To a scientist, failure or any negative result is not a bad thing because proving something is wrong is just as useful as proving something right as long as you are learning along the way. Treat your failures as data points that steer you toward the correct answers.
2. Approach Every Issue With A Goal To Find A Creative Solution
Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Scientists believe that in order to solve a problem, you have to be able to stand back, observe it and define it. The next step is to then rephrase it. Ask how can you reword this problem to make it easier to solve. For example, don’t ask yourself how to increase your productivity; instead ask how you can make your job easier. By using more simple ways of looking at a problem, it suddenly will become less daunting. Once you’re able to change your way of addressing the problem, you’re going to be more likely to find a creative solution.
3. Challenge Assumptions
Dictionaries define assumptions as something that is taken for granted. Scientists don’t like to take things for granted. They like to challenge conventional thoughts and turn those ideas upside down. They do it by experimenting with the assumption and then testing it to see if the results prove it to be true. We should all do the same thing. Take basic assumptions you have about your work or personal life and then determine a way to experiment with them to see if your assumptions are really true. For example, one assumption in business negotiations used to be the opposing-parties model where each side lined up along a board-room table and faced off. But, that assumption was challenged and soon the concept of win-win in negotiations was created and businesses treated the other party they were negotiating with not as an adversary but as a partner instead.
4. Eliminate Bias
When testing a hypothesis, scientists are taught to conduct experiments and research that are designed to minimize or eliminate any biases the scientist may have about the hypothesis. It’s important to do this as well when you are looking for solutions in your own personal issues. If you have an idea for a solution, and you want to test it first, you must figure out a way that eliminates any bias you have toward that solution before you can get any true results.
5. Constantly Ask Questions
One thing that curious young children always do with their parents is ask questions. “Why is the sky blue? Why does a dog bark? Why aren’t there any more dinosaurs?” Kids do this because they want to learn. Scientists also constantly ask questions. You have to continue asking questions yourself if you want to keep learning. It’s impossible to know what answers you’re looking for until you know what questions to ask.
6. Collaborate With Others
Scientists rarely work alone. Even the greatest ones of all time, like Einstein, Galileo, Marie Curie, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Nikola Tesla all collaborated with others on their work. If some of the most brilliant minds in all of history were willing to happily collaborate with others on their ideas, why shouldn’t you? Collaboration is the practice whereby individuals work together as a group with a common purpose to achieve a shared goal. Collaboration is how ideas are bounced off of other minds for feedback and suggestions.
7. Communicate Your Results
For scientists, it’s important to share the results of their findings. Scientists often find solutions after knowing the findings of other scientists’ experiments. In business, by sharing your results with your colleagues, you are helping to better your organization because others can use that information to improve their results.
If it’s a breakthrough discovery, your organization may want to issue a formal report or a press release. Either way, information is best when it’s shared with those who need to know.
National Director of Training