Work is based on assumptions
Dattner and Hogan, writing in the Harvard Business Review, suggest four strategies for learning about assumptions. How many of these do you employ? If you do employ them, can you go further?
We can learn of our assumptions by talking to other people. Listen, communicate, and be open. Exchange ideas, and ponder new ideas that come from others. Do not defend your own position without first asking, “Is there something I can learn from her approach?” An open posture to new information helps us examine the assumptions we have made.
Spend some time reflecting on the situation and the people. Look beyond the obvious. Notice how the situation works – or doesn’t work. Ask yourself, why does it work this way? Why couldn’t it work another way? Consider the impact of people – we all have our personality factors working in the situation. Would the situation be different if it were run by poets? If it were run by the fire department? What if Masai warriors led the situation? Conduct a thought experiment, and ask yourself a few questions. What would it take to run this situation under other conditions?
Use your reflection time to challenge your assumptions. If the project doesn’t work under other conditions, perhaps you have exposed an assumption. If you are not sure, let the doubt go unresolved for a while. Assumptions like to hide! Employ the power of your mind to find assumptions even while you are not focusing on them. A state of being unresolved can help you find the assumptions at work.
Think before you act. Imagine what you know, and what you do not know before you take action. Within that collection of uncertainty, you may identify a few assumptions. Be careful, the assumptions may be slippery, and avoid your direct attention. Use the power of the pause, and the assumptions may nag you into taking action. Be alert!
Think also, about how your strategy works. Visualize the processes involved. Express in words what is going on. Then ask yourself, “Do I know this to be true? Or is what I am saying my best guess?” Look for the assumptions that may be lurking in the background.
After the process has worked, look for a lesson. What have you learned by applying this effort? If you succeeded, ask the question even though you are satisfied with a result. Often, we can learn more from a failure simply because we ask, “What went wrong?” Few of us ask, “What went right?” The lessons may be available to you if you construct a large picture, and you may discover the lesson behind the actions. Try to gain meaning from everything you do. Assumptions may push us into a particular view. So ask, “What else could be going on?”
Build more awareness about the way you work. Examine the process, and find the hidden assumptions. Physics teaches us that objects that appear to be solid is actually mostly empty space. Ask if the assumption in your work is always true, or just “often true.” You may be able to find an exception to the rule to treat as certainty.
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After a successful life transition, choose a positive risk in the direction of a dream.
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