The challenge that Interchange Research took up all those decades ago was, “How do we apply scientific rigour to reveal practical means of handling those things that most confound us in our work and in our daily lives?”
Interchange Research was founded on the conviction that modern science, for all its gains over the past four hundred years, had so far failed to account for the rich and idiosyncratic character of everyday life. While bringing much light to bear on many arcane matters, it had left us blind to the dynamics of the things that matter most to us day to day.
What is more, this previous failure to find ways to apply rigorous scientific thinking in the design of effective action has had grave consequences for how we conduct ourselves in the world. It has often crippled our ability to act effectively.
But how could the gap be bridged between the powerful, high-level abstractions of science, on the one hand, and the complex details of everyday situations where fine judgement and decisive action are required?
Traditional scientific methods were reliant upon finding regularities in the phenomena to be studied. Initially surprising regularities would be explained in terms of better understood regularities. And so, for these and other related reasons, one-off situations were simply not amenable to the old methods.
The social sciences, for example, when dealing with the richness of human life, have often been forced to fall back upon sweeping generalizations and dubious statistical correlations referring to grey, amorphous classes of things. These, like the sweeping generalizations of management theory, are often of little use in dealing with the idiosyncrasies of real-life situations and real people.
When our team’s scientific quest began five decades ago, we asked ourselves: Could new methods be developed that would render one-off situations equally susceptible of rigorous scientific analysis? And specifically, was there a way to identify, predictably and reliably, the smallest intervention into any system that will trigger an all-or-none flip from the existing state of the system to some specific desired state and no other, all at once, with nothing in between, and with absolute precision?