The test-and-learn approach appears to be associated with flourishing
Here are the results of a survey that I recently administered about how people think about change and approach change. The survey which was filled in by 96 people consisted of the following parts: 1) How do you think people can accomplish successful change?, 2) How do you approach change?, and 3) How do you view yourself and your circumstances? The goal of this study was to explore to which extent people’s mindset about change and their actual change behavior are somehow associated with several aspects of human flourishing. The overall expectation was that the test-and-learn approach would be associated with respondent’s flourishing.
1. Independent variables (1): thinking about successful change
How respondents thought about successful change was measured by two dimensions: 1) the plan-and-implement mindset, and 2) the test-and-learn mindset.
The plan-and-implement approach is a conventional and intuitively appealing way of thinking about how successful change is achieved. This model argues that you first have to analyze and reflect in order to be capable of formulating a clear picture of what you want to achieve and that, only after you have done that, you can make a plan which can then implement. This conventional model of change thus exist of four major steps: analysis, goal formulation, making plans, and implementing plans. The test-and-learn approach is based on the idea that learning is a circular and iterative process. it can be described as follows: 1) determine what you would like to achieve, 2) chose a small step forward in the right direction, based on your previous experience, 3) take that step forward, 4) reflect on what happens, 5) respond to the consequences of your step, 6) build what you learn into your next step, 7) repeat these previous steps until an meaningful pattern begins to emerge. The test-and learn model is a dynamic model in the sense that the goal is not some fixed picture but something which keeps on developing as the process proceeds.
To measure these two dimensions the following items were used in the survey:
2. Independent variables (2): change behavior
To measure how respondents actually behaved in change processes the following items were used (which aimed to measure the same two dimensions):
3. Dependent variables: aspects of flourishing
To get a measure of flourishing of respondents items were included to measure the following 5 dimensions: 1) perceived autonomy, 2) perceived competence, 3) perceived relatedness, 4) learning, and 5) vitality. Dimensions 1, 2, and 3 are the basic psychological needs which were identified within self-determination theory. To the extent that people feel that these needs are fulfilled they are more healthy and function better. Dimensions 4 and 5 are based on research in positive psychology (see here). These two dimensions, taken together, are a measure of thriving.
The following items were used to measure these dimensions:
Reliability of the scales
The reliability of the scales was measured by calculating their Cronbach’s alpha’s:
Only the reliability of the scale TL Mindset was relatively low; the other scales showed good α values.
The table below shows the correlations which were found:
This table shows, unsurprisingly, that the way people think about successful change is associated with their behavior. A plan-and implement mindset is associated with plan-and-implement behavior and a test-and-learn mindset is associated with test-and-learn behavior.
The table further shows that the plan-and-implement mindset is not associated with any of the aspects of flourishing. Plan-and-implement behavior is associated with perceived competence and with learning. The test-and-learn mindset is associated with learning. Test-and-learn behavior is associated with perceived autonomy, perceived competence, learning, and vitality.
A composite variable called ‘flourishing’ was calculated based on the 5 aspects (autonomy, competence, relatedness, learning, and vitality). The table below shows the correlations between the change mindsets, change behaviors and flourishing.
This table shows that flourishing is significantly associated with test-and-learn behavior but not with any of the other independent variables.
This study provides an indication that the test-and-learn approach to change is associated with several aspects of human flourishing.