Wednesday, 6 February 2008

What might be

A colleague just sent this to me. I've not had chance to absorb it properly, but it the bit about 'Abductive reasoning' seems like it might an interesting concept to chuck into the MUVE mix.

Inductive, Deductive, and Abductive Thinking

Traditional firms utilize and reward the use of two kinds of logic. The first, inductive, entails proving through observation that something actually works. The second, deductive, involves proving – through reasoning from principles – that something must be. [...] Any other form of reasoning or arguing outside these two is discouraged and, at the extreme, exterminated. The challenge is always, ‘Can you prove that?’ And to prove something in a reliable fashion means using rigorous inductive or deductive logic.

Designers also use and value inductive and deductive reasoning. Designers induce patterns through the close study of users and deduce answers through the application of design theories. However, designers value highly a third type of logic: abductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning, as described by Darden professor Jeanne Liedtka, embraces the logic of what might be. Designers may not be able to prove that something ‘is’ or ‘must be,’ but they nevertheless reason that it ’may be.’ This style of thinking is critical to the creative process.

Martin explains abductive reasoning with the example of the Aeron chair, which Malcolm Gladwell also uses in Blink. The Aeron would never had happened if it weren’t for abductive thinking, as inductive as well as deductive thinking spoke against it.

1 Robert L. Martin, ‘Creativity That Goes Deep,’ BusinessWeek.

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