Analysing alternative explanations can help you test the strength and consistency of your argument, especially if it leads to controversial conclusions. It is particularly useful when you have a lot of data to absorb and evaluate.

Use this to...

  • Avoid making decisions based on first impressions, or incomplete data.
  • Look for hidden explanations.
  • Test other hypotheses that might otherwise have been ignored.

Try this...

No time like the present! Get the team Brainstorming hypotheses a few days before your meeting to help you cover every eventuality.

Call my bluff. Challenge each other’s evaluation of the evidence.

Through the looking glass. If you’re finding it difficult to think up hypotheses, try some Outside-in Thinking to identify external influences that could affect your argument.

Watch out for...

Keep it steady! Be sure to give equal evaluation time to each hypothesis and piece of data, especially if it is pointing you in a number of directions.

Steps...

  1. Make a list of all the hypotheses you can think of that relate to your business theme. Leverage the diversity and experience of the group. 
  2. Write a list of all the important evidence that relates to each hypothesis.
    Check for gaps in logic and thinking.
  3. Create a matrix with your hypotheses running across the top and each piece of evidence down the side. Ask a member of the group to facilitate this.
  4. Is each piece of data consistent, inconsistent or irrelevant to each hypothesis?
    The goal is to disprove a hypothesis, not confirm it.
  5. Go back to your matrix and reconsider your hypotheses. Do they still stand up? Do you need to add any new ones? Which explanations are strongest?
  6. Analyse the sensitivity of your data. Ask the group, what would happen to your hypothesis if your evidence was wrong?
  7. Is there any missing data that you’d expect to find in order for a hypothesis to be true. Ask the experts in the group.
  8. What questions to do we need to ask? What are the gaps in our understanding that we need to fill?

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