Naturally, we must seek to minimize that risk, but at the same time we need to continue to develop our understanding of the business environment.  Following an efficient, logical process will help us to do this.

A hypothesis attempts to explain a set of observations, and, having observed that any heavy falling body accelerates, the great physicist and astronomer, Galileo, hypothesized that it did so uniformly, acquiring equal increments of speed during equal intervals of time.

He then set about putting his ideas to the test, devising a simple yet ingenious experiment using a polished wooden board and a perfectly round bronze ball, whose rate of descent down the inclined panel he measured using a water clock.  In doing so, he cleverly negotiated the difficulties of measuring a free-falling object (whose speed would be too great to be accurately determined) by successfully slowing down the ball’s motion without altering any of that motion’s character.  Furthermore, the experiment proved Galileo’s hypothesis correct.

Contrast this with the case of celebrated French chemist and microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, and the sickly silkworms.  Having been ushered into action in order to save the French silk industry from the disease ravaging its most precious asset, Pasteur quickly attributed the alarming reduction in cocoon production to the ‘transformation’ of organ tissue into harmful cells. Perhaps Pasteur considered this to be some form of spontaneous generation (which we now know to be impossible, of course), but this flawed conclusion was just the beginning.

Intent on ignoring the rigorous analyses of his bitter rival, Antoine Bechamp, Pasteur went on to make a series of recommendations that, having been hurriedly adopted by the desperate silk industry, promptly led to its almost entire collapse.

For whatever reason, Pasteur’s only testing process hadn’t been an intelligent, efficient use of resources from which insight could be gleaned and broad conclusions formulated, but rather it was the large-scale, industry-wide application of his methods.  This ‘testing’ showed the central hypothesis to be unsound, seeing saw an additional 80% nosedive in French silk cocoon production

It is fair to say that Pasteur, on this occasion at least, had lacked Galileo’s aptitude for elegant, effective experimentation. If nothing else, though, he demonstrated the perils of not having a properly considered and administered testing process.