When solving problems, are you exploratory or hypothesis-driven in your search for answers?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 210,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

When solving problems, are you exploratory or hypothesis-driven in your search for answers?

  • I explore broadly to try to find the best answer: 70%
  • I'm hypothesis-driven so I can get an answer quickly: 30%

Exploring instead of driving. Clearly folks have a bias toward exploring and finding the “best” answer. This approach is dangerous. First, it can be time and resource intensive. Last I checked, time and resources are scarce commodities. Second, while you’re looking for the “best” answer, the world is changing and new variables enter the equation so by the time you get to “best” it’s not relevant anymore and you have to find a new answer. This gets you in an endless loop of doing analysis instead of executing ideas. Consider a hypothesis-driven approach. Take an educated guess at the answer. Prove or disprove the hypothesis quickly. If you’re right, execute. If wrong, move to the next idea and repeat the process. You’ll get more done in shorter periods of time.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box," and "The Elegant Pitch."