I took geography at GCSE and, whilst my geographical knowledge now extends little past capital cities and oxbow lakes, one of the most important things I learnt, and have carried with me since, is my teacher’s frequent question – so what?
At the time, the question was directed at a series of statements I had included in an essay – the exact details of which I have forgotten – that, upon review, offered nothing of value to the argument I was trying to make. My teacher’s aim was to demonstrate how asking such a simple yet effective question would keep the reader engaged and deliver a more focused and concise piece of work.
Fast-forward to university, and I found myself applying the ‘so what?’ test to almost every sentence that I wrote. Despite the word count of my third-year project report being in excess of 14,000 words, I was confident that it contained not one superfluous sentence.
The process of questioning the reasoning, significance and purpose of an idea, statement or feature is arguably one of the pillars of medical device development, where evidence and documentation are essential components of a successful project. Its application spans from front-end questions such as “what benefit will this user requirement add?”, to “is this procedure testing the right thing?” when it comes to verification testing.
Rather than meandering around the point you’re trying to make, at risk of missing it all together, the ‘so what?’ test allows you to stay on track. It’s also an effective way to ensure that the decisions you make are well-supported and well-founded and your work is consistently meaningful and relevant.