Here’s the second part of my article outlining the 6 principles behind the N2D Method®. Part One was a rip-roaring success and was the star of our website and newsletter, according to the analytics, so I thought I had better get on with Part Two.

We’ve covered First Principles, Mutual Benefit and Relativity. Now we’re going to cover the three with less catchy titles; Evidence Beats Opinion, Break Big Questions Down and Reducing Subjectivity. Here we go:

Evidence Beats Opinion

We would say this is always true. I also thought this was born out of such staggering common sense that everyone would agree. In some recent discussions however, it’s become clear to me that in a modern world where there is often more available data, people miss the warm bath of having an opinion and no one disagreeing with it, or disproving it.

So, here’s my case for evidence.

Evidence (evidence collected properly, with due care and by experienced practitioners) has the power to reduce friction between teams, to demonstrate more interesting opportunities and to be the stimulus for decisions with less risky outcomes.

Opinion, assumption, collective understanding and an educated guess all have their place and can be quick, cheap and useful. We use them too and have versions of the method that capitalise on them – but we must be clear about what they are.

A little validation goes a long way. How can you test what you think in the real world?

Break Big Questions Down

You might have noticed, the ocean is a tough old body of water to boil. Answering ‘the big question’ is difficult and fraught with danger – the biggest being it never gets tackled at all, it’s size and nature is just too unwieldy.

In order to answer a big question, we break it down and ask people to answer a series of small, isolated questions in a relatively dispassionate way (often using research as a basis for the answers – see Evidence Beats Opinion).

When you break a question down and ask people to think about smaller things, the process is engaging, more accessible and infinitely more manageable. People make progress and they get excited about the things they can do, not the things they can’t do.

The real value of doing this is clear if you have a way to connect the answers to those small questions back together, to see the answer to the larger question in a cohesive way. Obviously we use an algorithm to do this (I don’t need to write an article on why this is useful, there are loads – here’s a great one) but there would be other, more manual processes which would still help to ‘eat the elephant’.

The point is, as a principle, the cumulative answers to these smaller questions often yield surprising and insightful findings to an organisation. Areas for improvement, growth, innovation or streamlining. The process also helps people understand the critical components of the big challenge or opportunity.

Reduce Subjectivity

We could debate whether any process that humans input into (or machines, if their data comes from humans) will ever be objective. We think not. However, good decision making (when we say ‘good’ we mean; clear, actionable; with a transparent rationale and more likely to get the desired outcome) often comes from a process that helps to reduce subjectivity.

This is not the place to cover the range of well documented cognitive bias’, but it goes without saying that humans are ‘feeling machines that think’ and laden with opinions in any particular situation. Groups of people are particularly prone to bias and it just so happens that’s how most decisions are made in most organisations. It’s becoming commonplace for senior leaders in all types of enterprises to recognise and attempt to counteract bias in order to make more astute decisions with better outcomes. We like that.

The N2D Method is designed to reduce subjectivity, of course other decision making models are available (here’s our friend Daniel Kahnemann, Nobel Laureate, talking about one that supports method thinking entirely). The critical thing is to employ something, rather than nothing – reducing bias will help you avoid common pitfalls.

That’s it – call it a philosophy, call it some beliefs, call it codswallop (if you really want to). They’re the 6 critical principles behind the N2D Method that all come to play in the process (and will continue to evolve in our software and tools).

If you want to hear us explain this in any more detail, with voices and our faces (and the backs of the heads of a few hundred design folk), we recommend watching our talk at DesignOps GC 2019. It’s about 15 minutes long.

If you really like what you hear, then you might want to speak to us.

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