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2 Aug 2010

Practice Challenging Assumptions Every Day

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Challenging Assumptions

As we already know, one of the best ways to develop our problem-solving skills is to view things from a different perspective. Challenging assumptions is a way to do this, but this assumes we know the assumptions we’re using. Since they frequently go undetected, this can be problematical.

Nevertheless, we can train our minds to spot them. The process is similar to the one used by chess players in preparation for matches. They run through practice scenarios even though they won’t see them in the match. They are training their minds to see something similar. Students taking practice exams for standardized tests are doing the same thing; they won’t run across those questions but the practice establishes the right mind set for taking the test. We can improve our mindset for identifying assumptions by practicing with everyday situations.

For instance, a sales person asking whether you want to by the blue car or the red one is assuming that you wish to buy the car in the first place. A manager who says that you can make a lot of money if you do something is assuming that money is very important to you. When a neighbor told us he was going to get ice for the party, we assumed he would get enough for five ice chests; he only bought one bag. In business we often strive for efficiencies, but the assumption is that quality won’t suffer. The question, “Are we organized yet?” is assuming that organizing is necessary; the task might not require it.

Once a day, try to identify the assumptions people use in their decisions. No matter how obvious they might be, you will be honing your problem-solving skills.

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