Uncertain Hypothesis…

So I am a scientist. I like data. I like data and hypotheses…and I like testing hypotheses. I like it when we test a hypothesis and it works…I like it when we test and it doesn’t work…and we have to learn and revise our hypothesis.

Despite being a scientist, I have learned that there are times when I just have to trust my instincts – just do what I know is the right thing. This is not a natural behaviour for me. I have learned that there are times when it is more important that we move forward than it is we sit and analyse. This is tough for me.

It’s tough because it goes against who I am and what I believe. But it is a learned behaviour. And over time I have got better at judging when it makes sense, is OK, or is better, to just go for it…and when I have to pause for thought (and analysis). But even then, when I do act instinctively, I do make sure I give myself time afterwards to analyse and assess. What did I want to happen. What did happen. Why? And what would I do next time. Once a scientist always a scientist.

That having been said, every so often I see a scientific paper where the team have investigated and proved something that I already knew to be absolutely true. And I – like everybody else – wonder why did they bother.

I read just such a paper last week. A group of UK researchers proved that we cope well with good news, OK with bad news…but that we cope really badly with uncertainty. I agree. It’s true. I knew that. I experience that. I am not sure I needed to see a paper with tests on people to prove it.

A trivial example. A friend at work recently showed how I can track the location of someone (with their permission) on my smart phone. I now use it all the time when I am being collected by a taxi. Instead of worrying where he is and when he will arrive, I can track him and he can track me. We both know exactly when we will meet. No uncertainty. No stress.

We all have uncertainty in our lives at home and at work – none of us can predict the future. And although we all cope, it tends to be uncertainty about specific known events though that causes us more stress and anxiety. Organisational change. Career change. Family change. I knew both my children were going to leave home…I just didn’t know how we would handle it. I knew there would be change after our recent acquisition…I just didn’t know how it would play out.

Uncertainty feels better if we believe we have influence or even control. But although influence is common, control is rare. After all, if we could control uncertainty it would be certain!

I am often asked how I cope with change. I never know if that is because people feel I cope well – and therefore want to learn what to do…or because I cope badly…and people want to learn what to avoid. I have thought about this question a great deal. I have come through a lot of change. My best answer (not saying it’s any good – it’s just the best I have)? My best answer is that I stay curious.

In times of uncertainty and change I stay curious. I ask lots of questions…I ask more people more open questions. I ask open questions because I am looking for beliefs, opinions, points of view, ideas, hypotheses, data.

After all, I am a scientist…




About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 10 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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2 Responses to Uncertain Hypothesis…

  1. Jack says:

    Hi Steve,

    This is an excellent post! Very much enjoyed the stories and the wisdom you shared.

    Best regards,


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