Alice Gast, President, Imperial College London: We should embed a scientific mindset into business culture. Here are three attributes -
1. Sceptical curiosity -Scientists need to be sceptical. Like their colleagues in business and industry, they also must innovate. As they innovate, scientists strike a careful balance between curiosity, intuition and scepticism. Their work is driven forwards by curiosity, and it is guided by intuition and prior knowledge, but techniques such as external and internal peer reviews and randomized control trials are also embedded in their way of thinking to avoid blind optimism and bias.
2. Collaborative competitiveness -The best scientists readily compete and collaborate with one another. Someone in a different field or organization could have the key to unlocking the problem they are working on. When the problems get tough, scientists want to build the best team, even if the partner is a fierce competitor.
3. Confidence in the face of uncertainty and the unknown -The scientist’s business is the unknown. Where something is unknown, it is an opportunity to be pursued rather than avoided. This requires the ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty, which most people find difficult. In experiments, a lack of correlation moves science forward as much as a positive correlation. No information is ever complete. Scientists are comfortable with moving forward purposefully when faced with incomplete or problematic data sets.