It is hard to really know something

Thanks to @KevinObee I watched the Horizon documentary The Pleasure of Finding Things Out this morning. Being a Physics student, and having read many of his books, I always enjoy watching interviews of Richard, he has such a different view of the world. This morning I was particularly taken by this short section where he talks about “Science which is not science …”  (44 mins in).

You see, I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to get to really know something, how careful you have to be about checking the experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself … I know what it means to know something, and therefore I see how they get their information and I can’t believe that they know it, they haven’t done the work necessary, haven’t done the checks necessary, haven’t done the care necessary.

Richard Feynman

I talk a lot at the moment about getting more scientific at work. I talk about avoiding opinion based decisions, do more research, use hypotheses and test those hypotheses with experiments. So I found myself humbled by this quote.

To apply the scientific method to the work clearly requires is going to be hard, in the future I clearly need to change my approach.

  • More time reading and applying the body of knowledge already out there.
  • Take the time to get to know my work better. More time spent as close to the work as possible.
  • More time to reflect on the work. The dynamics and interplay of complex adaptive systems are non-trivial.
  • Build better more rigorous experiments, that extend my knowledge of the system.
  • Watch for mistakes, dead ends and times when I’m fooling no-one especially myself.
  • Stop rushing and take more care, both in the process and with the people.

Has anyone else thought how to apply more rigorously scientific methods to a work (especially software)?

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4 Responses to It is hard to really know something

  1. Nice post. I particularly like the tenor of the final bullet point. Now to the question: “By what method?” (Deming)

    – Bob

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