“Embrace Scientific Thinking” – A Universal and Timeless Principle

By: Robert Miller, Arches Leadership

At first glance this seems like a strange thing to say. How does one “embrace” scientific thinking? Furthermore, why would they? To answer these questions let’s remind ourselves what a principle is. The Shingo Institute defines a principle as “a foundational rule that has an inevitable consequence.” If something is a principle, it is universal and timeless; it is discovered and understood rather than invented. At some level it is intuitive, and finally it is action-oriented, thus influencing an outcome or consequence.

Principle Based Behaviors

To embrace scientific thinking one believes deeply in the process of experimentation, is curious about “what if,” sets aside prejudices and remains open to possibilities. The scientific thinker bases decisions and actions on facts and data as well as intuition and emotion. An organizational culture that embraces scientific thinking expects and supports people and teams at all levels to be “scientists,” passionately and relentlessly looking for and systematically trying new and better ways to do practically everything.

Universal and Timeless

Has there ever been a time when these behaviors in an organization or an individual did not produce breakthrough? Consider over eons of time all the major innovations and forward leaps in civilization. Were these not the attributes of the great thinkers and scientists? Consider also the smothering conditions that existed during the dark ages of Western Europe when repression of thought and information led to large-scale stagnation of new insight. Cycles of societal refreshing and reformation always included people who have embraced scientific thinking. Scientific thinking is not isolated to a particular geography or ethnic background. Curiosity, systematic experimentation and continuous learning are always the keys to significant breakthrough, anywhere, any time.

Understood Not Invented

Scientific thinking is a natural law not an invention. No one invented or patented this process and then suddenly everything changed. Scientific thinking is a natural law or foundational rule that has always existed as a pre-curser to systemic and sustainable improvements of any kind. The more we understand and embrace the behaviors associated with scientific thinking the greater the rate, quality and sustainability of improvements possible in any organization.

Consequences Governed

Failure to embrace the principle of scientific thinking results in stagnation and even repression of thought. People that work in a culture where scientific thinking is not embraced feel smothered, undervalued, unappreciated and frustrated. Employee turnover is high. Innovation is slow and rarely sustainable. More nimble competitors end up with better products, at higher margins first to the market place.

Organizations with cultures and behaviors that flow from having embraced scientific thinking, attract and retain the best employees, create the greatest value for customers, define new markets and provide the best returns for investors.

Behaviors that reflect having embraced scientific thinking are closely connected with those of “Seeking for Perfection.” To “embrace” scientific thinking, a leader must have first enabled a culture of respect for every individual and be leading with humility. This is one of the reasons we refer to these two principles as cultural enablers.


It has been fascinating for me over the last ten years, as I’ve tried to learn how to build these principles into an organization’s culture. Many individuals misunderstand or think that by using PDCA or DMAIC, or some other approach to some problem solving on the front line or for the administration of kaizen “events,” one has embraced scientific thinking. When compared to a deep culture, this is merely dabbling around the edges. The inclusion of the word “embrace” to this principle communicates that everyone in the organization has a deep respect and genuine appreciation for the behaviors that lead to a constant flow of questions, experimentation, analysis, learning and change.

Leaders create the environment, the example and the expectation for this behavior. Managers enable it by establishing and managing daily work systems that require ideal behavior on all their teams. Associates, every day, are thinking, wondering, asking and learning. In a managed way, they are constantly experimenting, evaluating, recommending, engaging and implementing the things they learn about how to make things better. Leaders and managers do the same but also ask about, go and see, recognize and reward behaviors that demonstrate individual and organizational initiative to “Embrace Scientific Thinking.”

Bob Miller, Principal, Arches Leadership

Arches Leadership is dedicated to assisting leaders, managers and associates to better understand this principle and all others related to enterprise excellence. We do this by teaching key leaders and managers the fundamental truths that are associated with each principle. We help them to raise the standard of excellence to the highest level by learning to recognize ideal behaviors as opposed to good or even very good behaviors. We help to guide managers in adjusting the key systems that shape daily routines and ultimately help leaders to shift personal and organizational thinking and beliefs, the most fundamental shift that ultimately precedes cultural transformation.

Contact Robert at robert@archesleadership.com or call 435.512.2508.

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