The Unscientific Method

I’ve been a diehard fan of the scientific method since the day I was formally introduced to it. It is so instinctive, so fair, and can only lead to perfect conclusions. I thought it should be applied to all things in life.

My unconditional loyalty to it remained until I was introduced to a slide deck from Bain Company portraying their summarized work methodology: Answer First.

I was instantly unconverted from the Church of the Scientific Methodology.

The scientific method isn’t the best approach for all situations in life.

Especially in the situations a management consultant faces in his life.
Consultants need to: appear smart (perceived value by their customers) and act fast.

Quick detour on consultants

Consultants can’t really be held accountable for the outcomes of their suggestions. 
If/when things go south they can always get away with it by saying: “based on the circumstances we had, our proposition was the best there could possibly and exist” and the classic “our recommendation was right, your team just didn’t implement it accordingly“.

This is not a war declaration on management consultancy firms.
I just don’t think they’re the panacea that many business leaders think they are.

btw: Most of the consultants I know are super smart.
btw2: Consultancy firms sometimes fulfill a very specific role: scapegoat. But that’s a topic for a different post…

Back to the topic of the Unscientific Method

Although I’m not a consultant and I like to drive results in the real world and be held accountable to my sayings, the Bain approach was a valuable lesson I’ve learned and has helped me be more efficient and effective.

Instead of aiming for perfection and irrefutability – which are necessary for scientists-, akin to consultants, business people can usually afford to be imperfect and make mistakes and they typically have less time to bring results (and many other urgent matters that need to get addressed).

Enough said.Here’s the link for the Bain Company slides on business presentations that made me an heretic.

ps. Sorry, the slides are in Portuguese. But I’ve found this article in English that describes the same concept in 4mins: Hypothesis Driven Approach


  • Different thought processes should be applied in different contexts.
  • Different thought processes optimize for different aspects and outcomes.
  • There’s no such a thing as scientific absolutism.

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