“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
– No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson
Of course you need data to use theories, but many people when they only have one data point that fits their model of the world will take that as proof of that they are right. If you only have one data point then you can only fit very simple models, so you need to gather more. The challenge then is how to find relevant data so you can fit them into a theory so that you can make a guess on what to do next.
We all have theories of how we see they world. You can also call them models, perspectives, schemas, map of the world, or intuition. These models affect how we see the world, and what we see in the world. We can’t take everything in so we need some way of removing all the excess data that is not relevant. To break out of our regular way of seeing the world and gather new types of data is to apply other models. They will force you to gather some types of data and disregard other.
When you then have this data then you first have to ask yourself: Does this data fit this model? If not then you have to find another model to work with. But if it seems to fit then you can try to use the model to find out what you should do to improve whatever situation you are in. Now comes the most important part: Test the prediction Try out what you should do and what the model predicts should happen. If it works it gives you a bit more confidence that you are on the right track, if it didn’t work then you have a new data point that could help you finding a new model.
This works for all types models, it could be a group development model to improve a team, a personality type model to find out how you can better talk to a colleague, or a model of a chemical process that you are trying to optimize.
The most important part to remember in all of this is what my old chemistry teacher told me in high school when presenting a new model: It’s not the truth, but it is useful.