Those Pesky Assumptions

Posted by Steve C on November 19, 2010 under The Blog | Be the First to Comment

Want to break free of the box. Start becoming more aware of and challenging the assumptions you are holding.

For years we have included outdoor team experiential activities in our leadership programs to help participants learn by doing. When developing a strategy to solve a perplexing problem, it is fascinating to watch how often they make assumptions that derail their efforts. Three of the most common types of assumptions are 1) adding constraints which do not exist, 2) making unfounded judgments about team member capabilities, and 3) refusing to attempt a given course of action because they are convinced (with no real supporting data) it will not work.

Do any of these sound familiar in the workplace? You probably would agree they are all alive and well.

Let me offer an idea for you to think about which can help you deal with this. When working with groups about strategic or other important decisions, I remind them that statements can fall into several categories – assumptions, opinions, facts, and recommendations to name a few. I encourage them to dig deep when they hear important statements, to become aware of which category the statement falls into. It is amazing how a well articulated opinion or assumption can sound like a fact! It is also amazing to see how quickly teams make progress when they cordially challenge each other to defend notions or assumptions with evidence.

Some assumptions are valid – with no programming background, it is probably a good bet that I am not the go-to guy on identifying and correcting bad code. However, many assumptions are not. So when you hear comments such as, “this cannot be done” or “the customer won’t like that,” make sure you verify the truth. Otherwise, your efforts will also get derailed as you eliminate possible solid solutions for no sound reasons.



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