There are clearly times when we need to make the right decision first time out. Tiger runs at you. Scampering up the tree seems like a good enough decision! If you make the wrong decision, chances are you won’t get a second chance. There is understandably a lot of pressure and stress associated, not to mention a fear of getting it wrong.

Thankfully, most of the decisions we make are not life and death and may not even affect us personally. And yet, we often tend to take the same approach as if we had something personal at stake. Not only do we put pressure on ourselves to get the decision right, but we also identify with the decision. Any criticism of the decision becomes a criticism of us.

And this is where I have found the idea of “treating everything as a trial” so liberating. The concept has really changed how I approach decision-making, and hence innovation. A trial is something we put out into the world and see what happens.

Nobody is really on the hook because the whole framing is around “We don’t know. Let’s see how the whole world will respond.” This resetting of expectations removes the pressure to defend the decision. It is only a trial!

At the same time, we want to make the best decision we can with what we know but there is often a point when we run out of information. That is when we need to release it into the world and see what happens. The reality is that there is always a ton of uncertainty around our decisions, and it is only in interacting with the world that our decisions take on lives of their own.

Then, once the evidence starts building up, we can reassess the trial and start another trial with what we have learned. In essence, this is at the heart of the Minimum Viable P (Product, Progress…) approach. It is thus important to have as much clarity as possible around what it is you would like to learn (validate) from a trial to ensure that the trial is as productive as possible.

Beyond that, because a trial is about the process and not the outcome, it can really only fail is you don’t run it.

Question in the Image:

  • What if I treated everything as a trial?

Want to Further Explore This Topic?

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries (link to This book focuses on the concept of simplifying processes and achieving desired outcomes with minimum effort while being adaptable and innovative. It offers valuable insights into managing projects and strategies in an efficient manner.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. I’m currently facing a major strategic decision that is full of unknowns and the above question is helping me lighten the load. I am therefore more focused on What do I want to learn? And, what is the easiest way to learn this? I really love the MVP mentality – about focusing everything on process more than outcomes and designing that process to generate as much targeted learning as possible.

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

How Might Tom Help?

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