Insights from a data scientist


This is a write up of a really inspiring Agile Meetup organised by Joe Emett with speaker Karl Scotland.

Karl put complex concepts across in an easy to understand way, inspiring to listen to. I got so much out of the event, but these are a few of my key learning points:

Karl explained using Information Theory that we need to fail as much as we need to succeed if we are going to be able to gain information about what is working and what needs to change. We also learnt from his card game that the failures need to be pretty evenly spaced between the successes five are to get the most information as it enables us to get a stream of comparisons between what works and what doesn’t work.

Define what you are trying to learn

By playing a game of “guess the code word” we learnt how important it is to plan your hypothesis before you experiment. If you don’t plan what you expect to learn it is hard to track if you are learning anything. It is also very hard to plan what to change in the next experiment as you relied on luck to learn something in the first round.

However…..! It is very hard to articulate an experiment if it’s too wide. When we said in our experiment let’s see if numbers 1 to 4 are in the code it was too broad. The team that said let’s find out if 7 is in the code I.e. learning a very small piece of the puzzle, they were more successful.

Define what success means

Finally Karl shared a template which ensured we “started with the end in mind” by getting us to specify 4 things in advance:

  1. We will declare success if X happens
  2. We will declare failure if Y happens
  3. As a result of success we will do X
  4. As a result of failure we will do Y

This was really thought provoking because it further developed our understanding of what we were trying to achieve. By working out either end of the spectrum from success to failure, it gave us a format to discuss why we were selecting what we were as a success. This led on to the discussion of what we do with that success and how it helps us achieve our overall goal.


It is always hard to go to these extra events after a long day at work, but I hope I am demonstrating that the effort is definitely worth it. For more lessons learned, sign up for my newsletter



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