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In Times of Change - Check Your Assumptions to Avoid Costly Mistakes

Do you ever stop to wonder why something is the way it is? This is the normal state of most children, a natural state of curiosity. As we mature that natural act of questioning diminishes in most people. There are many possible reasons for this. We may just adapt to the status quo and take things as they are or the way they appear to be. This can help us in our daily routines by letting us get on with all of the relevant tasks at hand based on the knowledge we have.

But, how does this affect you as the leader or business owner? Should curiosity be part of your thinking?

We all know about the importance of taking regular rest days and time away from work. These breaks are great because they give you time to think. So why do so many people resist taking them? In many cases they are resistant because it gives them time to think and this makes them uncomfortable.

You see, it can be hard for us to stay curious and to regularly test our assumptions and check or biases. It’s normal for us to seek out information that re-enforces our beliefs. This is known as confirmation bias and is part of how we all function every day. You might have heard the term “selective memory.” This is a type of confirmation bias. It’s not always bad. On the positive side, it can help us stay confident in our beliefs and values and provides a sense or certainty and security. Unfortunately, this type of bias can also prevent us from looking at situations objectively. It can influence our decisions and possibly lead to flawed or faulty choices. This confirmation bias happens due to the natural way the brain works, so eliminating it is impossible.

Even if you believe that you are very open minded and consider all the facts before coming to a conclusion, some bias will likely shape your opinion. It’s very difficult to combat this natural tendency. Knowing about confirmation bias and accepting the fact that it does exist is key. We can then make an effort to recognize it by striving to be curious about opposing views and listening to what others have to say and why. Taking this approach can help us see issues from another perspective and gain a better understanding.

The best way to deal with our biases is to admit that they exist and look openly for other points of view. Listen to other sides of the argument. When we take the time to listen to the opinions of others we are actually allowing ourselves the time to test our assumptions and improve or decision making process. This can of course be very useful in a personal setting as well as at work. When we consider the points of view of our suppliers, customers, team members and advisors it will make for a more well-rounded and objective assessment.

A critical component of developing a healthy company culture is the process of testing your assumptions. Our inability or unwillingness to see things as they are is the cause of many personal, professional, and organizational failures. The world changes and yet we expect it to be the way we think it should be and so we fail to take action. You need to be mentally prepared to be wrong. This could open you up to a new set of possibilities that you might not have considered before.

It’s a good idea to surround yourself with people whose opinions differ from you, even if this makes you uncomfortable. We need to check our ego and understand that we cannot know everything and sometimes we’re wrong. Perhaps at one time we were right and then things changed and we don’t even see it because we are too busy looking for evidence to confirm our previous beliefs. Only when we become open to change and differing ideas can we hope to avoid the negative effects of confirmation bias.

“Assumptions are made and most assumptions are wrong. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Albert Einstein

As a leader it’s important to stay curious and test your assumptions regularly. This is critical in times of change and can provide you new opportunities to grow.

If you are interested in discussing your business issues or changes and the possible assumptions you might be making, please reach out to me at to book a free 90 minute consultation.

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