Seven Things I’ve Learned About Assumptions

(1) Assumptions are self-imposed barriers.

(2) You can tell an assumption is coming by what you hear. Listen for: We could never; There’s no way they’d let us; I don’t think that would fly upstairs; What’s the likelihood of that happening; Just wait till some board member gets wind of this . . .

(3) Heeding assumptions is like making decisions based on rumors. Assumptions and rumors are cut from the same cloth.

(4) When a viable idea is on the table, it should be decided on its own merit. When an assumption presents itself, trace it to its source and verify it. If it’s true, it’s not an assumption. It’s policy. If it’s false, it’s a barrier to progress.

(5) Keep track of common assumptions. If the same assumptions regularly show up, write them down, solve them, document what’s true, and keep a copy at hand.

(6) To streamline “assumption resolution,” think through who is best suited to resolve each type. Options might include the CEO, the lawyer, the HR department, an engineer, and so on. For quick and easy assumptions, an email should suffice. Moderate examples might entail a phone call or meeting. Complex situations will need time for deliberation.

(7) Assumptions are often rooted in the past. Clearing them up is a good way to refresh and revitalize your company culture. Definitely worth the trouble.

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