Guidance On Thought Experiments
For the thought experiment process to be successful, you would like to do the following:
- Clarify the specific nature of the thought experiment: what is the exact question you are answering or what is the exact scenario that you are exploring? The more specific your question or scenario, the more likely that the thought experiment will generate useful information. It is fine to start vague, but a vague example is probably composed of multiple questions or scenarios. If that is the case, break it down into multiple thought experiments.
- Give yourself (or your team) a minimum and maximum time limit to work on the set of experiments. You can always add more time if certain experiments turn out to be really interesting. The more likely outcome is that you abandon experiments too early because you suspect they will fail. A minimum time to explore each experiment is important to ensure you do not allow implicit assumptions to limit your exploration.
- Set clear measures for outcomes from the experiments as well as an overall outcome of the process. Consistency is important! Do you want a new business model for each experiment, or just a couple sentences of thoughts? One good outcome would be the type of data you would need to take the experiment to the next level. You also want a process outcome, such as a “yes/no” for each experiment, or a prioritized list, or some sort of ranking. I encourage entrepreneurs to use a two variable rated approach. Each experiment should be rated based on how likely it seems to be as well as how much impact it would have. That usually gives entrepreneurs more clear direction on which to investigate further.