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Know why its important to Experiment and not Gamble to change behaviours

For those familiar with Scrum and other Agile ways of working, you will know that during Sprint Retrospectives, as part of our Inspection and then Adapting the team will often set up Experiments to try in the next sprint to help make their world a better place. They can vary greatly, examples could be, trying pair programming or holding the sprint review in the common area for anyone to see.

The case for experiments

So why is it important that we Experiment rather than Gamble on trying something new? It comes down to linguistics and mental models. An Experiment gives us the opinion that we are trying something by testing out a hypothesis. With an experiment, even if our hypothesis isn’t proven, we still learn something from having done it; this embodies a saying I often use with coaching clients, ‘there is no failure, only feedback’.  I like to think of an experiment as a win-win situation.

The case against gambling

On the other hand, Gamble implies we are participating in a risky action, where there is usually a good chance of losing something, and in casino terms, more so than winning. This is a win-loose situation.

Does this matter? I believe it does. The words we use, either verbally or in our internal dialogue shapes our thoughts more than most of us appreciate. Framing a situation as win-win, gives us the mind-set from the beginning that what ever happens, the outcome will be positive.

A negative mind-set brought on by the potential loss from the gamble however, will lace the entire experience with negativity, such that when the desired outcome is not a positive, we grieve the loss. We risk beating ourselves up for failing, or others for not contributing effectively.

Taking the concept beyond retrospectives

Keeping a positive frame of mind, one that is open to the choices available to us has many benefits to allowing us space to try new things and break out of the norms that can restrict us.

We should also be aware of the language we use, next time you ask someone how they are today and get the response, “Not bad”, ask yourself, are they in a positive or a negative mindset?

If you have examples of how language has limited you or others, why not share them on twitter?