Extreme decision making is when we overreact to bad events and overinvest in good ones.

Extreme decision making is common and natural. We often see bad events as worse than they are and good as better.

At its root, extreme decision making is about how we assess possibilities in events. The adage, “Things are never as good nor as bad as they seem,” is a common remedy for it. It is very common in decision making unless we protect ourselves. It is not limited to pessimists and optimists.

Extreme Decision Making Outcomes

“Safe at Any Speed” (Harvard Business Review, September 2014 edition) tells of Mary Riddel’s (University of Las Vegas) and Sonja Kolstoe’s (University of Oregon) research into this “possibility bias” as it is called. They found “amateur auto racers are actually more rational about risk than most of us.”

Outcomes of extreme decision making tend to be of two types. Our fears will encourage over investing in protection and our expectations over investing in opportunities. Experience can help but it could also make it worse.

Negative stories in our lives will deter change and innovation. They make us less open to new ideas and ways. Positive stories, our successes, are less likely to have taught us much. They raise testosterone levels though. This means bigger bets.

Protection Through Reflection and Diversity

To protect ourselves from extreme decision making, at some point we need to remove ourselves from more influence and information. This means taking time to reflect quietly and refer to prior plans. They help us revisit prior views.

This means putting an end to more review of research and data. We tend to see what we want to see anyway. Too much information only increases indecision. Data restricts creativity.

Moods greatly impact our decisions. We should avoid pressure and fear. We need to look for times when we feel good about ourselves. Overconfidence though hinders reflection.

When we work with our teams, focus them on the costs and risks. This prevents rosy forecasts. We ensure teams are diverse. This creates options especially in tough times. We must not be afraid to manage the team through conflicts that will arise. Playing out scenarios in gaming exercises helps to test ideas.

A body grows best with balanced nutrition. Our decision making does too with balanced views. Reviewing plans and reflecting quietly upon the views of diverse people are the best protection from extreme decision making.

1 Comment. Join the Conversation

Power of Being First

By Mike Lehr
Power of being first causes us to think inside the box.

The power of being first can help us spot problems and achieve our goals.

The power of being first triggers our need for security. This power exerts itself in all parts of our lives, from laws to wrong info. It can warn us of future problems and help us reach our goals. It can cause us to think inside the box and to stop thinking.

Identifying the Power

In law, the power of being first is called precedent. “Fear and Loathing” (The Economist, September 22, 2012 edition) shows how it even constrains those who seem to have total control. Whenever we “justify the present by calling up the past” (“The Uses of History, [The Economist, December 20, 2014 edition]), we are using the power of being first. “We have always done it this way,” is a routine work example.


In job interviews, it is best to be the first one (“A Question of Judgment, [The Economist, June 16, 2012 edition]). Agenda setting in politics and in business taps power of being first. It is the first thing to state the limits of discussion. People stating their views first is an informal use of agenda setting.

In all these examples, the power of being first sets the sides of the box. It is inside this box where we will think and discuss. We judge what follows according to this box. We judge the success of meetings by how closely they follow the agenda. We judge the second job candidate in terms of the first.

Using the Power of Being First

The power of being first anchors thoughts in people’s minds. It can be as simple as a keyword. It can set a mood. A fallen child who bruises a knee is a common example. If we say something cheery before the first tears hit, the child moves on without crying. The same happens when we are first to frame a negative event in a good light.

In conversation people focus on the idea just said. We can use this power to keep it going or to change it. We can also use it to set prices for new products, services or relationships. This power is at play with price when someone says, “You can always come down. You cannot go up.”

Knowing how this power works protects us from thinking inside the box, and helps us spot problems early and achieve our goals.

Be the first to comment

With More Power Less Thinking

By Mike Lehr
With more power less thinking the risk of poor decisions increases.

With more power less thinking occurs about new information on known topics.

Life gives all forces good and bad aspects. Breathing gives life. It also causes aging. Gravity prevents us from flying. It allows us to walk and use other modes of traveling. The same holds true for power. With more power less thinking comes.

Research on More Power Less Thinking

As power increases, a study shows we think less (PDF of complete study). Another is blunter. Power makes us stupid. If we know a topic well, the more power we have the less likely we are to think about new information on that topic.

Power though also expands what we believe we know. The confidence power gives convinces us and others that we are more competent than we are. Since we think we know more, we also think we have more control than we do. This opens the door to more and more risky decisions and antisocial behaviors.

Implications of More Power Less Thinking

In simple terms, it means that with more power less thinking we:

  • Think we know more than we do
  • Question what we think we know less
  • Believe we have more control than we do

Moreover, leadership comes with more power. Since power can corrupt thinking, leadership can corrupt leaders. With more power less thinking means their decisions become worse. Thinking they know more, they think less. They question less. Unless advice attacks current beliefs, they do not think much about it.

With more power less empathy comes too. It is easy to look at the loss of thinking and empathy as negatives. It is nature’s way of weeding out weak leaders. They will lose their positions, their influence or both.

This does not mean they will not prosper personally. It does not mean many will not suffer. It does mean though a change in leaders will come.

Remedying More Power Less Thinking

With more power less thinking, the simple, practical remedy is preparing leaders for the dark side of leadership. Too many leadership programs paint a Pollyanna picture. They do not prepare people for these personal challenges.

One study though gave another way. It said the problem went away “when the powerful were made to feel incompetent.” Is there better career-ending advice to give employees?

Be the first to comment
Getting introverts and extroverts working together is about integrating value and money.

Getting introverts and extroverts working together is about balancing these personality types in our teams.

How do we get introverts and extroverts working together? Researchers often share how to identify them. Few share how to lead them. Few have had to do that.

When they do share, it is simplistic. Extroverts should handle the people aspects of a project. This means collaboration and coordination. Introverts should deal with the more task-intensive aspects. This means research and documentation.

How would each look at a project? Their sources of energy tell us. Extroverts receive their energy from the world around them. They will see projects as ways of making their mark in the world. Introverts receive their energy from inside. They will see projects as ways to express themselves.

In business, extroverts will care less about the essence of the project as long as it works and makes money. Introverts will care less about these as long as the project shows the best of who they are. Extroverts will move with conditions. Introverts will hold the course. Extroverts look at now. Introverts look at long term.

Introverts and extroverts working together do better than pairs of extroverts or pairs of introverts. Extroverts tend to produce things that make money but don’t have value. Introverts tend to produce things that have value but don’t make money. Getting them to work together is about integrating value and money.

When it comes to new ideas, extroverts will tend to brainstorm out loud with others. They will create a long list. Introverts will tend to think about many ideas, come together and share their best few. Their list will be short but good.

Introverts and extroverts working together is about balancing all these extremes. It is knowing that personality types are relative. Take any two extroverts. One will be more introverted than the other is. Take any two introverts. One will be more extroverted.

No one is 100% pure extrovert or introvert at all times in all situations. Every extrovert has an introvert inside balancing him. Every introvert has an extrovert inside doing the same. Thus, getting introverts and extroverts working together is about balancing these personality types in our teams. It is not about choosing one over the other.

Be the first to comment

Always in a Hurry

By Mike Lehr
How we feel about time influences whether we feel always in a hurry.

Sometimes, we are always in a hurry because of the need to feel important.

Time is relative. Einstein told us so. If we are always in a hurry, it might be more than just not having enough time. It could be how we view time.

Bad times seem to linger and good times fly. Twenty years sounds like a long time. That is until we wake up one morning and wonder where those years went. Is being always in a hurry just our imagination? It is that same imagination that demands us to be busy. We feel more important when we are.

There are huge implications for productivity. Needing to feel busy is like binge eating. We continue eating even when it is no longer satisfying hunger. We continue working even when it is no longer productive. Busy work fills our time.

The article “Why is Everyone So Busy?” (The Economist, December 20, 2014 edition) details how about people’s attitudes towards time shape their feelings about how much they have. Money encourages us to worry about time. The more we make the more we tend to worry.

Talking and thinking about money increases our unhappiness too. We are always in a hurry and are always unhappy about it. “A fast pace leaves most people feeling rushed.” We who are always in a hurry infect the rest.

The vast array of goods and services encourages us to feel short on time. We want more. From the sales side, they tell us we need more, should have more. We can fill our wants quicker too. We become impatient when we cannot. We end up always in a hurry to fill them.

We receive more communications. It is easier to connect and do things with colleagues, friends and families. “When there are so many ways to fill one’s time, it is only natural to crave more of it.”

Cassie Mogilner (Wharton University of Pennsylvania) found that “You’ll Feel Less Rushed If You Give Time Away” (Harvard Business Review, September 2012 edition). Why, if this was only about time? We feel better about time when we freely use it to help others. We feel like we have more of it.

Do we have time to think differently about our time though?

Be the first to comment

Problems with Freedom of Choice

By Mike Lehr
Problems with freedom of choice are easily seen in our music choices.

The problems with freedom of choice create bubbles around us that protect us from what requires work and thought.

Leaders rely on advice. Much of it comes from employees. It is common fare today to tell leaders to set direction, delegate, empower and get out of the way. All of this gives much freedom to employees to choose what advice they will give. There are problems with the freedom of choice though.

Our technologically dynamic market demands change. Change means adapting. Advice must suit that. It is vital then that leaders know the forces influencing what advice employees choose to give. A swarm of such forces relate to problems with freedom of choice. A directed leadership approach could be better.

These are few areas that quantify better the problems with freedom of choice than music does. Much is related to the fact that people do not want to think. It is work. It is hard. Given the choice of two paths, one thoughtful and one thoughtless, people will tend to choose the latter when free to choose.

Derek Thompson writes in “The Shazam Effect” (The Atlantic, December 2014 issue) that music listeners will tend to:

  • Avoid new music
  • Spend 90% of their time listening to songs they have already heard
  • Seek out new music that is popular
  • Like new music once they have heard it three or four times

This is called fluency. When music fits what we expect, it fills us with comfort, confidence, certainty and celebration. The vital point to leaders: the same holds true for information and ideas. The problems with freedom of choice are that they restrict options. It is ironic but true. We create and stay in our freedom bubbles. Thus, when listening to employees’ advice, leaders will do well to remember that employees will tend to:

  • Avoid new ideas
  • Spend most of their time researching and developing ideas they have already heard
  • Seek out ideas that everyone else is using including competitors
  • Explore new ideas if leaders relentlessly encourage them to do so

Leaders also need to realize that these problems with freedom of choice are normal. Our brains process the familiar more easily. It is easier to ponder and package well-used ideas as new. They do not require thought. They are the junk food to a diet of change and adaptability.

What are your people feeding you?


Here’s a short video about the cited article. It gives some funny and good statistics about the music we choose:

Why Pop Music is so Repetitive

2 Comments so far. Join the Conversation

With More Power Less Empathy

By Mike Lehr
With more power less empathy sets in.

With more power less empathy comes too.

Leadership programs tend to paint a Pollyanna picture of leadership. When leaders go awry, they like to say, “That is not leadership,” “The leader did not earn trust,” “The leader was not honest,” plus many other retorts. They paint the dark side of leadership as not being leadership at all. They are teaching Luke Skywalker about the Force without warning him of its Dark Side. As a result, leadership blindsides leaders and causes them to fall.

With leadership power comes too. With more power less empathy does too. Empathy is a safeguard against authoritarianism and prejudice. This puts the leader at risk of hubris. Hubris makes leaders ill-prepared to adapt. Hubris makes leaders believe nothing will change. They will remain in control. Leaders come to fear change. Their organizations do not change. When things do change, the leaders and their people fall.

Money often begets power. At minimum, people feel powerful. As people acquire more money, they give less to charity as a percentage of income. Moreover, when they do give it is mainly to universities, colleges, arts, hospitals, and museums. The less money people have the more likely they are to give to religious and social-service organizations.

Another aspect with more power less empathy is homophily. Powerful people like to hang out with other powerful people. It is natural. This is the White House bubble about which Presidents complain. In business it is the “yes people,” the sycophants. They form an ego-massaging bubble that is hard to resist.

Leadership encourages leaders to be removed. That is part of its dark side. As they associate less with those less powerful than they are, their empathy wanes. They are out of sight and out of mind. It is why people who live in socioeconomically diverse communities give more to charity than those who live in more homogenous ones. Diversity protects our empathy. It secures our future.

As with Luke, we can learn to protect ourselves. Bad leadership is still leadership. Leadership’s dark side will corrupt good people. With more power less empathy is just one part of that dark side.


Additional reading: Power Robs the Brain of Empathy cites several more studies as well as looking at how power affects our brain waves as seen in EMG readings.

Be the first to comment
Challenging assumptions exercises train our minds to become better problem solvers.

Assumptions often box us in. Challenging assumptions exercises free us.

Assumptions box us in. We like them though because they make our communications simpler. For instance, I am writing assuming you can read English. Assumptions can be conscious or unconscious. Either way, they anchor thoughts in our minds. They become the sides of the box outside of which we are trying to think. Challenging assumption exercises help to free us.

As I wrote previously, becoming better at challenging assumptions is about practice. Here, I offer three challenging assumptions exercises as practice. They will help us train our minds to see hidden assumptions.

Exercise #1: Hidden Sales Assumption

Do you want to buy the red one or blue one?

Salespeople frequently use these types of questions in various forms. The unsaid assumption is:

You want to buy either one.

Exercise #2: Leading Assumption

Many times descriptors influence how we think. For example, consider these two statements:

  1. This plan will get it done because it worked in a similar situation.
  2. This good plan will get it done because it worked in a similar situation.

Both give evidence why the plan will get it done. In the second one though, “good” is added. The assumption now is:

This is a good plan.

The statement does not define what good means. It is a leading assumption because it leads us to believe it is good because it will get the job done. We might need to consider other factors such as cost before we determine whether the plan is a good one.

Exercise #3: Hidden Leading Assumption

This occurs when we use words or phrases with positive connotations to lock in a view.

Everything went according to plan.

We tend to feel good when things go according to plan. It does not account for the fact that perhaps we missed great opportunities not in the plan. Thus, if we ask, “How did everything go?” and people wanted to hide the fact that they ignored a great opportunity that came up, they could respond with, “Everything went according to plan,” leading us to think all went well.


These challenging assumptions exercises help train our minds. Assumptions are not bad. They make communication easier. We just need to prevent them from boxing us in.


Related posts:


2 Comments so far. Join the Conversation
When they talk about us, it's really about them.

When they talk about us, they open windows into their personalities.

“How people describe you says more about them than it does you,” is something I often say when I show people how to assess personalities in real time. Adrianne Palmer asked me to expound on this. For example, if someone says we are disorganized, he is saying organization concerns him. Whether we are or not is a matter of who is judging. In this case he is.

People often throw their own emotions on us when they talk about us. Shakespeare’s line in Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” is an example of it. People who talk a lot and complain about others they think talk a lot is an example too. By complaining about others, they feel better that they do not talk a lot. When someone says we are disorganized, he feels better that he is organized. This is called projectionism. It is similar to the childhood retort, “It takes one to know one.”

To make this work people need to talk about something. It works when they talk about us. The Rorschach Test and House-Tree-Person Test (HTP) are professional tools that do the same thing. People talk about what they see in inkblots. They draw a house, tree and person then talk about them. In this sense then, when they talk about us we are their inkblots and drawings. Doing so with everyday things also opens windows to their personalities.

No two people though describe inkblots, houses, trees and persons the same way. It is subjective. When they talk about us, it is subjective too. We are far more complex and deeper than inkblots and drawings too. Their descriptions then will tell us this about them:

  • They are like that or think they are, or
  • If a compliment, they desire to be like that or, if a criticism, have concerns of being like that.

Whole groups of people can throw the same emotions onto others. Scapegoats emerge this way. They become a lightning rod for those emotions. Thus, an extroverted group will think we are too introverted, an introverted one too extroverted.

In the end, the only person who can really know you is you. When they talk about us, they open windows into themselves.

11 Comments so far. Join the Conversation

Pretty Health Care Dilemma

By Mike Lehr
Pretty Health Care Dilemma

We can cast the health care dilemma in the larger context of helping everyone feel better at work.

There is a link between our emotions and health. If we feel emotionally good, we tend to have better health. Our health impacts our performance at work. This means the health care dilemma (USA Today, October 7, 2014) impacts us everywhere. After a recent event though, perhaps this is a pretty health care dilemma.

My wife recently had foot surgery. This required a cast. The hospital we went to is very large. It has many locations. When she went for her first cast, she chose the pictured wrapping for it. Her next appointment was to be in a different place though.

Before she left, the cast technician gave us an extra package of the wrap. He said, “They probably won’t have this at the other location. Here’s some to take.”

When we went, he was right. They did not have it. The cast technician who redid her cast this time also ordered the supplies for that location. She asked him why they did not carry this wrap. He replied, “Well, it’s pretty but not functional. The solid colors are cheaper than the prints.”

As he applied the print wrap though, three employees came in at separate times and said how pretty it was. They asked if it was something new. The cast technician told them (three separate times) that it was not and that they do not carry it. They asked why. He answered. They pressed him. He dug in.

Perhaps though the whole health care dilemma is a matter of prettiness. Perhaps this event was a microcosm: a battle between those who think pretty is functional those who do not.

Pretty is certainly functional if it helps us feel better emotionally. We feel better physically. If it improves employee morale, it is functional again. They work better. They care better.

Yes, we need efficiencies. Should we be making those decisions though under the assumption that pretty is not functional? Many make much money on helping us look and feel good in clothes, cars and homes. We feel better. We gain confidence. We gain credibility.

Is helping people feel better about themselves at work just a health care dilemma though?

2 Comments so far. Join the Conversation
The difference between leader and hero is that you do not have to be a leader to be a hero.

Although they can be the same, there is critical difference between leader and hero.

Tku Can, a Twitter connection, asked me to explain my quote:

The difference between leader and hero is that you don’t have to be a leader to be a hero.

First, there is no doubt that they could be the same person. People like to follow heroes. That makes heroes leaders. We also find many leaders wanting to position themselves as heroes in our minds. They tell of tough upbringings, challenging lives, and selfless deeds. Courage is a main theme. This implies though that all leaders are not heroes. If leaders are heroes, why would leaders need to prove they are heroes?

One way to define difference between leader and hero is to use pictures. When I searched Google for images of leaders and heroes, quite a difference existed. Another way is to examine literature. Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Lone Ranger and superheroines help us too.

When leaders and heroes differ, we see groups versus individuals. We see actions of people versus actions of persons. We see public versus private. We see many routine activities versus single courageous ones. We see union of self and group interests versus sacrifice of self-interest for others’ interests.

It is hard to imagine leaders without followers, leaders who do not galvanize or command others. It is hard to imagine leaders who are anonymous, unknown to others. Leaders have daily responsibilities for their groups. They challenge us. They operate in the light.

Heroes do not need followers. We do not need to know heroes. They do not ask of us. Their interests do not need to coincide. They sacrifice. They neither ask nor expect to get anything from us in return. They operate in the dark.

My four-year-old niece was visiting. She lost her princess water cup. She always goes to bed with it. She cried when her parents forced her to go to bed without it. The next morning, while everyone was asleep and I was heading out to clients, I found it. When I returned at the end of the day, she hugged and thanked me before I had walked two steps inside. At that point, not for an instance, did that little girl see me as her leader.

3 Comments so far. Join the Conversation

Dealing with Ambiguity

By Mike Lehr
Dealing with ambiguity means relying on people more than computers.

Dealing with ambiguity means people who are mentally and emotionally comfortable with it are more the most important assets.

Dealing with ambiguity often occurs when doing things for the first time. The temptation is to make such events clearer than they really are. This is normal. It should alert us though that we are headed down a path of setting errant expectations. As a leader, it means not preparing our people well for changes.

To Nathan Bennett and G. James Lemoine (“What VUCA Really Means for You” [Harvard Business Review, January 2014 edition]), with ambiguity we know little about the situation and have little ability to predict outcomes of our actions. Ambiguity is one of the four horsemen of apocalyptic decision making because in the face of it we are likely to plan too narrowly. It is so easy to hedge our bets against one response. This brings disaster if we are wrong. It can also bring on a leadership crisis as we are forced to issue unexpected changes.

Thus, when dealing with ambiguity, our plans need to deal with a range of responses not one or a few. The responses are small. We do not commit the enterprise. They are tests. We learn. We adapt. We do so quickly. We test again. Again quickly, we learn and adapt. We keep going until the fog clears. As this happens, we commit more resources to successes. We take them from failures. We make bigger bets.

Bennett and Lemoine give examples of ambiguity as moving into new or growing markets and launching products outside core competencies. Working with new people and groups are examples too. This could be the result of joint ventures, mergers, acquisitions and consolidations. Ambiguity usually arises in creative works such as music and videos. It includes the web. People quickly copy successful ideas. This dilutes them. Pressure to find more is always there.

Generally, computers and data tend to be less helpful in dealing with ambiguity than with the other three horsemen. They are based on history, so their help is more with analyzing test results. It is not with projections. Human experience, people who are mentally and emotionally comfortable with ambiguity are the most important assets. It is why the U.S. military relies more on people than on computers when dealing with ambiguity.

6 Comments so far. Join the Conversation
Believing in what personality tests do for us is more important than what they actually do.

Personality tests produce better hires largely because we believe they do. They increase our belief in our employees. That belief produces better performances.

When we set realistic goals for employees, we improve their performance. When we believe in them, it improves too. Personality tests convince us to believe in our employees. Our belief more than the test itself accounts for the better performance of hires passing it.

In medicine, researchers must account for the placebo effect. This occurs when patients feel or improve from a fake treatment. Placebos can take many forms.

For example, the article, “Think Yourself Better” (The Economist, May 21, 2011 edition), cites research in which patients improve even from fake surgeries. Thus, to see the true effect of a treatment, the researcher must conduct a blind trial. Still, patients can feel and see results even if they know a placebo has been used on them.

If placebos can make us feel better about our bodies, they can make us feel better about many things. This includes how we feel about our employees. Personality tests do not go through a blind trial. Their primary evidence is that employers say that hires who pass the test perform better than those who do not. Patients who take placebos say their bodies are better than when they do not take them.

OkCupid, the dating site, ran a test to see how much weight their word carried in making two people believe they were a good match. Their word inspired bad matches to exchange nearly as many messages as good matches did (“Make Me a Match,” ([The New Yorker, August 25, 2014 issue]).

As a founder of OkCupid, Christian Rudder, wrote in his book, Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), “When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other.” If belief in personality tests can make us feel good about whom we date, it can make us feel good about whom we hire. Good feelings yield good results.

It is authority that makes these placebos work. It is highly persuasive. This is true even if we know authority is selling something. Fairy dust will deliver better performance as long as we believe it does. Authority is critical to that belief.

14 Comments so far. Join the Conversation
In leadership, how to motivate employees with words is critical.

How to motivate employees with words requires training, practice and planning.

In advertising we learn how to motivate consumers with words. In leadership we need to know how to motivate employees with words. We can learn much from advertising. Principles are the same. I use them in my series, Leveraging Relationships in Communications. We just apply more rigor to advertising than we do leadership when it comes to relationships.

“Advertising’s New Medium: Human Experience” (Harvard Business Review, March 2013 edition) by Jeffrey Rayport shows the contrast. In using words, he says advertising operates in four ways to establish:

  1. Keywords in the mind
  2. New habits
  3. Ways of thinking
  4. Emotional connections

Contrast this with how to motivate employees. Do we plan this with them? We don’t to the extent we do with advertising plans. Our keywords are critical to change. According to Rayport, we establish a “cognitive beachhead.” They become the anchors by which we produce change. A change management plan for an employee will begin with keywords.

Using keywords, we repeat and follow up to change habits. Many times we need to change thinking first. This includes how an employee sees himself. We often skip this. Resistance to change is often fear though. It’s fear of embarrassment. It’s fear of failure. Changing the habits of employees with low confidence is hard. We work on confidence first. We work on new habits second.

Once we introduce a new habit, we need to introduce a way of thinking about it. This can be as simple as explaining why the new habit is good. On a higher level, it will provide context. For instance, rather than saying, “The industry is changing,” saying why gives context.

Finally, we make emotional connections with our words. We look for the emotions that really motivate an employee and connect our words to them. Saying “good job” connects a good emotion to a habit. A compliment strategy will help us do even a better job of this.

Advertising shows us how to motivate employees with words. Its principles are relationship building ideas used on a mass scale. We just don’t plan our relationships as well as we do our advertising.


4 Comments so far. Join the Conversation

Challenging Assumptions Example

By Mike Lehr
Challenging Assumptions Example

Assumptions can isolate us from our world unless we challenge them.

Challenging assumptions is a key approach to communicating, problem solving, innovating and creating. Too many times though people tell us to do this without really showing us how. If they do, they give simplified examples anyone can see. I focus on invisible assumptions. They guide our thinking without our knowledge.

To explain this, I will present a typical definition of an assumption. I’ll then give an obvious example. Afterwards, I’ll dive into invisible assumptions and give an example.

A typical, academic definition of an assumption is similar to this:

A statement for which no proof or evidence is offered

For instance, “That product won’t sell,” is an assumption by this definition. We are saying it won’t sell. We don’t offer any proof or evidence. “That product won’t sell because it’s very similar to the one we tried last year. It didn’t sell.” Here, we offer evidence.

The second statement in the link to the above statement is better:

An idea one believes to be true based on prior experience or one’s belief systems

For example, “Based on my experience that product won’t sell,” offers our experience as proof. Saying, “Based on my expertise in taking products to market,” offers our belief in the form of expertise as proof.

The problem remains though. What about unsaid statements and unconscious ideas? Three of us were preparing a block party. Two of us asked the third, “Could you go and get some ice?” Even though he was with us amongst five large coolers, he returned with only one bag of ice. It was barely enough for one cooler. We were stunned. What unsaid statements or unconscious ideas did we assume?

  • He saw that we had five large coolers.
  • He understood how much ice to get.

We neither asked nor thought of asking questions to clear these assumptions. Miscommunication occurred. Our ice problem remained.

Identifying assumptions trains our minds. Hidden ones exist in our everyday discussions. They create business problems. A challenging assumptions example helps us practice. Practice helps us train our minds to see assumptions. We can’t challenge what we can’t identify though.


4 Comments so far. Join the Conversation