Flawed Conclusions

I once heard about a researcher that was studying a rare breed of frog that had some incredible jumping abilities. On a good day, with wind at its back, it was said the species could jump a good 30+ feet. This may not sound impressive to you but… for a frog? Trust me, it’s impressive.

Anyways, this researcher secured funding and managed to find a frog to study. He was confident he could uncover the frog’s jumping secrets.

On a rainy Monday, he put the frog down on the floor and yelled, “Jump Frog Jump!” The frog jumped. After logging many jumps, the he was elated to record in his notebook that the frog had jumped an average of 27.2 feet.

Then, on Tuesday, the researcher cut off one of the frog’s front legs.

I suspect you are now thinking to yourself, “Wait. He cut off one of the frog’s legs? What value is there in a story about a three-legged frog?” Please be assured that there’s a point in here somewhere. Stay with me.

So… on that Tuesday, the researcher went ahead with his experiments. He asked the three-legged frog to “Jump Frog Jump!” The frog jumped. After many jumps, he recorded that the frog had jumped an average of 23.5 feet. Very interesting.

Wednesday went similarly. The researcher cut off the second of the frog’s front legs and coaxed the two-legged frog to “Jump Frog Jump!” The frog jumped an average of 21.2 feet. Wow. This was some frog!

On Thursday, the researcher cut off one of the back legs and encouraged the one-legged frog to “Jump Frog Jump!” The frog jumped 7 feet!

Spurred by his success, the researcher removed the frog’s last leg on Friday and yelled, “Jump Frog Jump!”

The leg-less frog didn’t jump. It just sat there as if nothing had happened. The researcher tried yelling at the frog again. “JUMP Frog JUMP!”

Still nothing. The researcher was getting frustrated and yelled as loud as he could, “JUMP! FROG! JUMP!” This went on for an uncomfortable amount of time without any jumps.

Finally, disheartened, the researcher recorded his findings:

“Frogs without legs don’t listen.”

In life and in work, it is sometimes important to step back from a situation to figure out if we are asking the wrong questions when we get results that we don’t want or expect.

Are our expectations wrong? Does the team understand what’s wrong with the product? Does the customer know what they want? Have we gone about solving the problem in an incorrect way? Do we even understand the problem to begin with?

As professionals, we need to constantly manage assumptions, work to understand the problems we are solving, and work to communicate vision. Otherwise, we’re just yelling at a legless frog. And that’s sad.

No frogs were harmed in the writing of this post.