CAL Tip #12: Create & Use Experiments

I like many kinds of vegetables of all colors: broccoli, cauliflower, the various cabbages, you name it. However, I hate asparagus. Asparagus tastes like the inside of an old tin can to me.

I can tolerate asparagus if it’s cooked in some way so I can drench it in butter and salt. Yes, I mean drenched. Because who doesn’t like butter and salt? Okay, you might not like butter and salt, but I love them! I can mask the taste of asparagus with enough butter and salt.

I can try to eat asparagus any day of the week. I still won’t like it.

How do I know? Because my mother served it several times a year when I was growing up. I dutifully tried it. The first time, I might have been about seven. I spit it out. Yes, I knew better. You would think that with that data, my mom might have taken it off the vegetable list. She rotated it in. I had to keep trying it.

It didn’t matter how she made it: boiled, broiled, warm, room temperature. I hated asparagus and I still hate it. I no longer try asparagus. I’m done trying.

This is an example of an experiment:

  • The hypothesis: Johanna likes other vegetables. She will eat asparagus.
  • Test that hypothesis with an experiment: Serve Johanna asparagus.
  • Gather data: She hates it this way!
  • Conclusion: Let’s try another way.

We did this experiment several times throughout the years. Each time, I hated it.​ I finally got old enough to make my own vegetables. (My parents adhered to the cook-one-meal-for-everyone approach for meals.)

Some people love asparagus. My mom was one of those people. For her, it was a treat. For me, it was horrible.

People with food allergies form hypotheses about the food(s) that make their lives miserable. They first create an experiment where they eliminate all common allergens and eat that way to create a baseline. Then, one by one, they add in one more small piece of food (testing a hypothesis) and see how they feel (gather data). Based on that data, they conclude whether this food is safe to eat.

I do the same thing with almost everything in my life. When I was trying to find medicine that would manage my vertigo, I experimented with it. When I discovered a different kind of medicine worked better, I experimented with that one, too.

I experiment with my walking, writing, workshops, you name it. I help my clients create experiments and execute them to see if their hypotheses are true.

I recommend you experiment, too. Notice that an experiment is different from “trying” something. When we create hypotheses and decide on the data to collect, we experiment. If we don’t have hypotheses or gather data, we’re not experimenting. We’re trying.

I don’t learn enough from trying. You can see that my mom “tried” to help me learn to like asparagus. That was not going to happen.

I learn from experiments. I recommend you consider how you might create experiments.

  • What problems, issues, challenges do you see?
  • What hypothesis (or hypotheses) do you make about them?
  • What data do you need to gather?
  • What conclusions do you draw from that data to feed into possible solutions or alternatives to the problems?

The more experiments I consider, the more adaptable I become. I hope you create and use some experiments, too. Let me know what experiments you’re using now.

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