Playing guessing games can be a dangerous way to go about running your business. It allows for bias to creep in and can affect how you handle certain situations, often bringing about more harm than good.
When you make assumptions, you don’t always take the necessary time to get the full picture, nor the data and insight required to make the right decisions. This can result in taking the wrong actions and end up damaging either a promising business deal, your business strategy or even relationships.
In summing it up quite succinctly, Hannibal from the The A Team, reminds us that “Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups”.
Why Do We Assume Anything, Anyway?
I’m guilty of it, you’re guilty of it and everybody has, in some shape or form, made assumptions. It’s an innate function built within all of us to either protect ourselves or to find shortcuts around our predictions and estimations (in other words, to be safe or to be lazy).
Sociology reminds us that we all have a frame of reference that navigates our decision-making, communication and behaviours; we all have biases that affect our perspective, which opens the way to prejudice and subjectivity. This ultimately shapes our assumptions.
The problem lies in the fact that those assumptions are further linked to our emotions and thus affect the way that we perceive and engage with others – even in making the right predictions around business strategy and the business, as a whole.
Sometimes cognitive bias won’t allow us to see the truth, because protecting our sanity is a priority for the subconscious mind; when something could fail, backfire or cause any mental distress, we often choose to turn away from the truth in order to maintain a semblance of control over difficult circumstances.
What Are Some Of The Common Assumptions In Business?
One of the most important things to remember in business is that objectivity is crucial and that being subjective can be dangerous when engaging with others and dealing with the day-to-day operations of your company.
As a business owner, there are loads of situations and scenarios that you have to encounter and deal with on a daily basis and so the risk of making the wrong assumptions becomes far greater.
When coaching my clients, I sometimes find that a lack of research and data is the culprit behind making inaccurate predictions around business strategy.
Some of these presumptions include the viability of a product or service and believing that there’s a market out there for it; the longevity or shelf-life of a solution, thinking that it can never go out of fashion or become outdated; customer behaviours and ignoring the extent of their interest or disinterest; and competitive forces being perceived as harmless and non-threatening.
Doing thorough research becomes a vital process in order to understand your market, how long your solution will remain relevant, whether or not customers enjoy your product and how intense the competition is. The amount of external factors that will end up shaping your business are far too many to be relying on assumptions, alone.
Some of the most common assumptions found in businesses tend to include ideas around finances, resources, economy and politics, and competition.
Every business owner needs to understand that it takes time to become profitable and that it can take years to produce returns from your product or service; that it isn’t easy to retain skilled employees and talent, as the culture that you provide, as well as the incentives matter; that the political and economic landscape you’re in constantly changes and affects your entire strategy; and that competitors are capable of altering market conditions and redefining entire industries.
By giving awareness and seeking knowledge around the assumptions found in business, it will shape your decision-making and help you work towards better solutions, while giving you enough clarity around the risks that come with making the wrong predictions.
This way of thinking doesn’t only cover the broader components that I’ve mentioned, but also some of the more intimate and personal beliefs that business owners hold.
Assumptions can lead to bad interactions with clients, staff and those that could potentially benefit your business further down the line. Preconceived notions can end up damaging your reputation – burning bridges and losing out on precious opportunities to grow.
On a personal level, especially as a leader and entrepreneur, you need to be a great listener and pay attention to everybody that you interact with. Allowing bias to dictate your assumptions of people can create uncomfortable working environments or awkward interactions that could quickly spread through word-of-mouth. Your reputation is on the line.
Employees, clients and even outsiders could see you as bigoted, which could shape the way that people see your brand. You end up becoming a role-model and ambassador for your business, constantly shaping the beliefs and ideas of your customers and staff.
How Can We Improve Our Assumptions?
Without the correct data, you run a high risk of jumping to the wrong conclusions and making poor decisions for your business.
I understand that certain assumptions will always be made, especially when faced with accurate facts and figures. There can be sufficient data to motivate your assumptions and push you towards action, but you need to constantly be testing those thoughts, as opposed to relying on them.
Remember that no strategy is bulletproof and constantly needs to be re-evaluated to ensure that it’s still effective. The same applies with assumptions, as they can be affected by external factors at any given time.
In terms of personal biases and prejudice, we need to learn to listen more effectively and avoid jumping to conclusions when facing and engaging with people.
Regulating your emotions and thoughts will come in handy when dealing with people; learning to clear your thoughts and mind when interacting with staff, clients and others, asking questions to ensure that you understand what’s being said, and making sure that you find something positive in every situation will go a long way.
In business, you need to differentiate between belief in your product or service and what the data presents to you; customers decide whether or not your solution is necessary, and you need to be aware of how they feel, competitors exist in every space and you need to know how to compete effectively, understanding that the economy and political environment determine laws and regulations, which in turn affect your business, is just as important.
Don’t assume and always follow the facts.
I’m going to go off of a hunch here and assume that, since you’ve made it this far, there’s some value that you’ve taken from this.
And if you’re somebody that seeks value, appreciates and enjoys the insight gained from material like the piece that you’ve read – then I’ve got just the thing for you:
One-on-one coaching with a professional, upbeat and experienced business coach that isn’t afraid of sharing his knowledge, network and novel approach to business growth.
Contact me today and let’s transform your business:
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