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  • Sam Decker

High-Speed Leadership: “Hypothesis Mindset” to Achieve Performance

In high speed performance driving and company leadership, the ability to master capabilities will ensure success. The best path to accelerate achievements is using a "hypothesis mindset." That means testing, learning, and mastering one thing at a time. It’s as relevant to accelerate on the racetrack as it is in corporate hallways.

The Hypothesis Mindset in Driving

High-performance driving demands focus and an intimate understanding of the car's behavior and driver's capabilities. To achieve this, drivers adopt a hypothesis mindset.

Trying New Things

There are many ways to win. In any race, drivers follow similar principles and lines. But each has slightly different ways to brake, steer, or accelerate. To test new techniques or limits, you can methodically try one at a time and find what works best. Adjust your seating position, change your line, tweak your grip on the steering wheel, or modify your braking method. Each change is a hypothesis to be tested against the problem of grip and speed.

Learn One Thing at a Time

When honing driving skills, the best approach is to tackle one skill, one habit, or one technique at a time. Whether it's mastering braking points, finding the ideal line, or refining throttle control, the goal is to focus on one element until it becomes second nature before moving on to the next. The best drive—the fastest drive—requires little conscious thought. Muscle-memory flow is achieved through focused repetitions of various capabilities, each requiring cognitive attention until they don’t.

As co-owner of Texas Drift Academy, I coach students from time to time (Dax Shepard session here!). I first teach the importance of vision, and we revisit this critical habit regularly. Students next learn how to initiate a drift with a handbrake, an entirely new muscle memory and one of the easiest of the four ways (ebrake, power over, weight transfer, clutch kick) to initiate a drift. Then comes learning countersteering (or letting go of the wheel). Next, throttle control, so you slide without spinning. In drifting, 75% of your steering is done with the accelerator pedal. Once these skills start to set in, I return to vision. I watch the students' eyes to ensure they’re looking where they want the car to go right after initiating a drift. Then, all those skills of handbrake, steering, and accelerator work together to head in the right direction—going sideways!

Feel of the Car

As you test methods and approaches, pay attention to the tactile feedback from the car to narrow down what is working. The car communicates through sounds and sensations. Raise your conscious awareness to listen to the engine, tires, and brakes. Feel the road surface and the car's weight shifts. Feel the pressure in the steering and the vibrations through the seat. Use this information to determine if a hypothesis is working and to develop a unified connection with the vehicle.

The hypothesis mindset for performance driving means making small adjustments to your techniques and feeling or observing the effects. This iterative process helps master each element until everything you do is masterful.

The Hypothesis Mindset in Leadership

In business, the hypothesis mindset involves treating products, markets, initiatives, programs, and tactics as experiments that need to be tested and mastered before scaling or moving on.

Product/Market Fit

Fast-scaling companies -- especially past Series B -- have to diversify products, markets, and regions. Before allocating resources to scale a new direction, the first hypothesis to test is ensuring your product or service has a strong market fit.

When I was CMO at Bazaarvoice, the sales team wanted to expand to Europe. Rightfully, they asked for marketing support. I hit the pause button. My first action was to go to the UK and hit the road to pitch our software to London prospects with our first European sales director. Before expanding our budget and resources for this geographical expansion, I got firsthand product/market fit feedback. And further, we secured our first customers, who became case studies to fuel those forthcoming marketing efforts.

Master Initiatives

Just as a product’s fit to a market is a hypothesis, so is any initiative, campaign, project, or program aimed at achieving results in a company. The best hypothesis has some data or evidence supporting it as the best chance to overcome one of the company's top customer or business problems getting in the way of a primary goal.. Notice the line up tin that last sentence, now in reverse: Primary Goal -> Top Problem -> Best Hypothesis (or Solution). What this means is that focusing on the hypothesis or ideas that solve the biggest problems toward your most important goals is the fastest way to achieve results. Or said another way, a method to choose what to do that truly makes an impact vs. nice-to-dos.

Every program or project has a 'wake' behind it. It's something that just seems to keep going and take resources. As you start an initiative, do so with a hypothesis mindset. That means deciding what success looks like and when to determine if it succeds to scale the program or shut it down. The most strategic decision to make – especially in fast companies – is where you can say no!

Feel the Company

Just as drivers need to feel their car, leaders need to connect with their company. This means understanding your people, customers, product, and market intimately. Practically that means going on sales calls, having office hours, walking the halls, and leading operational updates. It requires interaction with the people and measurements of the business. Regularly engage with employees through fireside chats, office hours, and effective one-on-ones. Spend time with customers, participate in sales activities, and undergo product training. Have ways to measure the effectiveness of inputs to the company. These interactions provide valuable insights and foster a deep connection with the company's pulse. The "feel" of the company is knowing the goals, the measures that affect them, knowing where you are, and learning what is moving the needle.

The hypothesis mindset is about continuous learning and adaptation. In high-performance driving, it means feeling the car and mastering one skill at a time. In leadership, it involves connecting deeply with your company and rigorously testing initiatives before scaling. By adopting this mindset, both drivers and leaders can navigate the complexities of their respective fields with precision and confidence.


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