Inductive reasoning

Jennifer leaves for school at 7:00 a.m. Jennifer is always on time. Jennifer assumes, then, that she will always be on time if she leaves at 7:00 a.m.

Every windstorm in this area comes from the north. I can see a big cloud of dust caused by a windstorm in the distance; so, a new windstorm is coming from the north.

Bob is showing a big diamond ring to his friend Larry. Bob has told Larry that he is going to marry Joan. Bob has bought the diamond ring to give to Joan.

The chair in the living room is red. The chair in the dining room is red. The chair in the bedroom is red. All chairs in the house are red.

Deductive reasoning

In mathematics, if A = B and B = C, then A = C. Since all humans are mortal, and I am a human, then I am mortal. All dolphins are mammals, all mammals have kidneys, therefore all dolphins have kidneys. 

Since all squares are rectangles, and all rectangles have four sides, so all squares have four sides. If Dennis misses work and at work there is a party, then Dennis will miss the party.


Inductive: Latin inducere, from in + ducere to lead. To induce means to: move by persuasion or influence; call forth, effect; cause the formation of. Inductive reasoning begins with observing particulars.

Should the particulars indicate a pattern, a conclusion might be drawn or inferred. The particular is the starting point. To infer means: to derive as a conclusion from facts or premise; guess, surmise; involve as a normal outcome of thought; point out, indicate, suggest, hint.

Deductive: Latin deducere, to lead away, from de- + ducere to lead. To deduce means to: infer from a general principle; trace the course of. Deductive reasoning draws a conclusion about particulars based on general or universal premises. The general is the starting point. A premise is something assumed or taken for granted, presupposed, believed.

Empirical: Originating in or based on observation or experience; relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory; capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment. Latin empiricus, from Greek empeirikos, doctor relying on experience alone, from empeiria experience.

Skeptical of deductive thinking

Americans are inherently skeptical of theory, theoretical thinking, and deductive approaches. They are empirical. For Americans „seeing is believing.“ Experience is real, factual, hard data. Experence informs. Americans prefer to build their processes from the bottom up, from „how the work is actually done.“

Process improvement: Americans asked to improve a process will imbed themselves in the inner workings of the team and the processes they use. They observe what does and does not work, what increases or decreases value, what is worth doing. They will then propose improvements, discuss these with the users of the process, then test, implement, improve upon. American process improvement is specific and experience based. It is not general and theory based.

Broad vs. Narrow: Americans distinguish between a narrow and broad process pragmatically. If the concrete actions to be taken are insufficiently spelled out in a process or a procedure, that process or procedure is not narrow enough. They are, in other words, too broad. If, on the other hand, a process or procedure demands too many deliverables, it is too narrow, focussed, inflexible.

Too many deliverables means too much time and too many man-hours are necessary without resulting in any clear value-added for the end-customer. Americans differentiate stringently between valuable and invaluable processes and steps in a process. Processes and procedures can be balanced or imbalanced. Balanced ones lead to a value-added ratio between work and results. Unbalanced processes and procedures are inefficient, costly, slow and cumbersome. They destroy value.

Atlas of Emotions

In the U.S. the field of psychology has grown in popularity. In the 2006-2007 school year, social science was tied with history as having the second largest number of awarded Bachelor’s degrees.

In fact, there are so many people majoring in psychology in the U.S. that psychology majors have the highest unemployment rates of all recent college graduates, with 19.5% of clinical psychology majors and more than 10% of educational and industrial/organizational psychology majors unable to find work.

A lot of this popularity is due to the work of people like Paul Ekman, an American psychologist, who has created an Atlas of Emotions, which identifies over ten thousand different facial expressions. He has also written fifteen books about body language including Telling Lies and Emotions Revealed.

Due to his high (albeit imperfect) success-rate with using small details in a person’s facial expressions to induce larger truths about that person, Ekman has served as an advisor to several police departments and anti-terrorism groups, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Thanks to his work, Ekman has gained a reputation as the best human lie detector in the world.

Additionally, Ekman’s work was recently used as the basis for the television crime drama Lie to Me, a show in which several psychologists and facial expression experts use their knowledge of body language to assist in investigations. This show ran from 2009 to 2011, and won two People’s Choice Awards in 2011.

Inductive American science

Murray Gell-Mann, a theoretical particle physicist who won the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics, used the specific measurements of multiple particles with varying masses to induce the existence of quarks, half of the known elementary particles – the foundation of all matter, and what he called the eightfold way, a generalization of particle symmetries, which was able to predict the masses of yet undiscovered particles.

Linus Pauling, a chemist who is the only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes, for chemistry in 1954 and peace in 1962, charted particular chemical bond angles and distances at Caltech following his fellowship. He then used these specific charts to formulate generalizations about atomic arrangements in crystals.

Deviation from prozess goal

In 2011 PwC presented the results of its study Zukunftsthema Prozessmanagement – literally Future Topic Process Management, which surveyed its current state in German companies.

95% of executive management in Germany agreed that business process management was either important or very important to their success. Process management has become a critical function at the corporate level.

At the same time only 5% of those surveyed said that their process management was well developed. 46% of the companies did not have a clear plan on how to react to process deviation. Only 12% claimed to have an established mechanism for handling deviation from the most critical internal business processes. 

While the study documents how much room for improvement there is in the area of process management governance, it was equally clear how flexibly German companies react to process deviation. Which, in turn, contradicts the cliché that Germans have a process for everything and always stick to the process.

Popper’s Principle of Falsification

Deductive thinking is to make conclusions based on a law and a condition. Students in the social sciences at German universities learn deductive thinking early on.

Applying deductive thinking in the social sciences is not that simple, however. Statements (laws) can never be proven conclusively, because it is not possible to test every possible case. 

The Germans in the social sciences, therefore, rely on the Falsifikationsprinzip or principle of falsification: to seek out cases which contradict the hypothesis, in order to refine that hypothesis. 

The Falsifikationsprinzip was developed by the Austrian philosopher Karl Popper, and is foundational to social science thinking in Germany.

It is one of the key reasons why Germans are inclined to reject inductive thinking, which suggests the general based on the specific. German social scientists (and academics in general) believe that inductive thinking is fine for everyday life, but has no place in the sciences.

A subtle difference

Normierung – norm-ing – is defining a unified measurement (dimensions, proportions) for products and processes. Norms are not only practical, they save money. Up to 17 billion Euros per year, according to the German Institut of Norms (DIN).

DIN is well known to all Germans, even if they don’t think about it. DIN-norms were introduced to them as early as grammar school when they began to work with stardardized pape sizes such as the A4. 

But what exactly is a norm?

The German Chamber of Commerce writes (loosely translated): “A norm is a rule (regulation, code of practice). It is legally accepted. It was established via a standarized process. It solves a problem, addresses a situation, addresses factual circumstances.”

Manufacturers can invoke or refer to a norm in order to save time and money. However, noone is obligated to follow a norm. They are often, nonetheless, written into production contracts, thus defining measurements and processes.

In that sense production proceeds deductively, base on theory or the norm. Industry norms are more firm, more binding, than industry standards, which are not generally accepted, which can be defined by manufacturer to manufacturer.

Interestingly, the English language does not distinguish between a norm and a standard. Perhaps this gives us deeper insight into German thinking.

All theory is gray

To deduce is to infer certain consequences from general premises (assumptions, propositions). Infer means to form an opinion, to reach a conclusion based on facts. Stated simply, to apply the general to the specific. This is a central part of how Germans think.

Deductive thinking is in German commercial law. What work processes should look like are very specifically defined. They should, for example, be based on German laws governing safety, but be shaped by overall knowledge of the respective company.

Work process, therefore, are based both on theory (safety laws) and on practice (knowhow developed over years).

The renowned German dual vocational training is based on this logic. The students in vocational schools learn at the same time theory and practice (or application). The so-called gray theory – classroom learning – is a requirement.