Everything is an experiment

If we’re seeking to make change, to make a contribution, the outcome is part of the work. If the outcome repeatedly doesn’t measure up, we should change what we’re doing.

And evidence is everywhere. More proof, more data, more insight about how it worked…

The thing is, much of the time, we willingly ignore the evidence. When we’re the consumers of the change, we insist on evidence-based treatment. We want doctors and software and teachers that do something that works. We want to get better, we want the computer to not crash, and we want to learn things effectively and quickly…

But often, as practitioners, we ignore the evidence in favor of what feels ‘right’, or because of our attachment to a narrative or what we’ve done before. We stand on principle, not results.

So, before presenting the evidence, before assuming that people will change their work in response to the data, we need enrollment. We have to ask for a commitment. “If the evidence shows that there’s a better way to do this, are you open to changing?”

It takes guts to answer this honestly. It takes guts to say, “no matter what the evidence says, no matter how effective or ineffective this is shown to be, I’m going to stand on principle or status or tradition or belief…”

It took more than twenty years for Ignaz Semmelweis’ clear evidence about the cause of maternal deaths to be accepted. And more than a century later, it took just as long before doctors in the 1960s and 70s accepted that ulcers were caused by bacteria, not pastrami sandwiches.

What are we doing about the evidence related to incarceration for low-level drug offenses, for Head Start, for Meals on Wheels, for teaching to the test, for gun deaths, for philanthropy?

The first agreement is to look at the evidence. Or not.