In choosing a hypothesis there is no virtue in being timid. I clearly would have been burned at the stake in another age.
- Thomas Gold
The other day, I had the pleasure of participating in an "Answer First" training course offered by a Bain consultant and put on by our Vice President.
After Googling the premise, I asked my husband if he'd heard of it, and his response was, "Yeah, it's some methodology around putting the answer as the first slide in your presentation because people at our company are too busy to listen to a whole story."
Actually, that's the third pillar of the concept. The first pillar is what they call "Answer First" thinking. The premise (not unlike the article I published 6 years ago!) is that when faced with a problem, you should develop a hypothesis shortly after doing a quick evaluation of the situation.
By creating a hypothesis, you draw a line in the sand and create a rally point for your stakeholders and managers to either agree with or disagree with, allowing you to proceed with planning or start over.
If everyone agrees with the hypothesis, you can create an assertion-based workplan to galvanize all of the disparate areas of the organization and help them understand the interconnections between the teams. Then the teams can create their task-oriented workplans around them.
For example: Say your executive wants you to create the "best booth we've ever had at TradeShowWorld 2011." You might hypothesize that this means, "We will create a booth that garners us more than 30% share of voice and more sales-ready leads than we've ever achieved at this event in the past." If your executive agrees with this interpretation, you have a clear direction to begin the process. If your executive tells you that's not at all what s/he meant, you can then refine the hypothesis until it gives you the answer s/he actually wanted.
From that hypothesis, you build out the supporting facts or ideas that need to be created in order to achieve the stated result. So you need something really buzzworthy and practically viral to gain the share of voice you need to reach. You also need ground-breaking content that has attendees clamoring to give you their email address to learn more.
Now you have two paths to follow - buzzworthy "thing," killer content or offering. You can now create the workplans around these activities and not be trapped into the timelines of standard events ... driven by print deadlines.
Finally, there is the Answer First Communication portion of the concept. This is close to what my husband described: Know your audience. Know how they like to receive information. If you are in front of them to present a solution, then present it first and show your supporting materials behind it. If you are you in the room to teach or inform, then you might need to put the answer at the end after you have completely told the story.
It's yet another Consulting Company Brilliant Nugget: Obvious advice, but restated in a way that makes you realize not enough people work this way. I like it. I will use it. I kinda think I already did, but now I will be sure to!
For an overview of Bain and their Answer First philosophy, open this .pdf.