The goal of a thought experiment is to think through a hypothesis and its potential consequences.
Some of the best breakthrough scientific thinking started as a thought experiment that started as a principle and without physically doing an experiment, was pushed forward by thinking it through. The power of our minds to think deeply about a problem is immense. Einstein used thought experiments to visualize and explain his concepts to others and included situations like trains passing, people falling off roofs and imaginary devices. Thinking in this way, helps develop a notion when you’re not able to test it or you need to play out possible options in order to design a suitable test. Should we use them more?
Spending time thinking about a problem is not so popular in a world where we are encouraged to move fast and iterate – often before we’ve thought of anything but the most basic consequences.
If we had space in our working process to do the thought experiment phase, perhaps we could open up a much deeper understanding of the hypothesis or even decide on a different one?