Careful with Inductive Reasoning

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Careful with Inductive Reasoning
Daniel Strongin, Business Consultant, United States

We are filled with ideas, but rarely test them...
Shooting from the hip, as we often do, and defending our point of view to the death, without first testing, is radical inductive thinking. We start with what we observe and then make inferences towards a general theory. This may be necessary, but is not reliable, and suicide for business, because learning depends on chance. How long did it take when people believed the world was flat, until someone finally went to the edge of the world and found out it wasn't?
All insects I have seen fly, so all insects must fly. Thinking so is understandable, but not true.
To really learn, to engage, you have to test reality. Even if your theory is wrong, and it usually is, with a theory as a start and using deductive reasoning, you will actively learn as you engage, and improve.

Inductive Reasoning Demands Integrity and Intellectual Honesty
Patrick Mulvey, Management Consultant, United States
Daniel, excellent point that most overlook. Inductive reasoning although valuable, poses an additional challenge: one must rachet up your sense of intellectual honesty.
When gathering data you will always have some outliers. But when does removal of outliers become shaping the outcome to suit your inductive hypothesis? Daniel raises our awareness of a seductive trap of convenience and feeling of proof, for what may simply be an ego projection.
Induction demands integrity. In your search for the Comprehensively Exhaustive, how many options were unsupported. If more ideas failed than were sustained, induction may have led you to cherry picking. It is easy to infer what the data do not imply.



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