Focus on Usefulness, Not Validity

December 4, 2012  

About 10 years ago, I developed the Personality Poker® system.

Since then, I gathered a mountain of anecdotal evidence supporting its value.  But one question remained in my mind: Is Personality Poker truly valid? That is, do the words actually measure what they are supposed to measure? Or is it just a fun game?

To help assess the situation, several years ago I decided to hire an expert on psychological testing. The perfect person for the job was Michael Wiederman, professor of psychology at Columbia College in South Carolina.

I mentioned to Michael that people found Personality Poker to be extremely simple and valuable. It provided deep insights in a short period of time, while being very easy and intuitive to play.

The question I had was, “Could something so simple also be scientifically valid?”

Michael response: “Simple is good, as long as it’s useful.” And just because somethings is valid, does not mean it is useful.

He went on to recall a study published several years ago in which a battery of widely used depression tests and methods were administered to a group of people, along with some simple questions. Although the tests administered were complex and supposedly scientifically validated, the most accurate predictor of depression was the single question: “Are you depressed?”

So much for scientific validity!

Complexity does not equate to value.  And scientific validation does not imply usefulness.

The real world is only what matters.  And sometimes the simplest solutions are the most useful.

Innovators need to stop relying on spreadsheet, statistics, lab tests, focus groups, surveys, and other attempts to “validate” a solution.

What works in the “laboratory” may not be the best solution for the real world.

Sometimes you need to get out and see what really works.  See what solves a customer’s pain.  Discover latent and hidden needs. And keep it simple.

As Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, once said, “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

Our left-brained society seems to value things that are complex and “proven.”

But never confuse “validity” with usefulness. And never think that a complex solution is better than a simple one.


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