“Weapon of Choice” – assumptions

November 5, 2011

Week #4 of the SEP Blog Battle.

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My weapon of choice is an assumption. It’s so much more efficient for me to just assume I know what’s going on around me, and to move forward working with the assumptions I’ve made.

Wait…are you still with me? Obviously that couldn’t be any farther from the truth.

Unfortunately, a common weapon I see people using is an assumption – and that’s a weapon that has the tendency to backfire. It’s like playing roulette with a 6-shot that has 1 blank, and 5 live rounds.

Just the other day, my wife and I were out shopping. Normally I open the door for her, but this time there was something that made it awkward for me to open the door, so I just went around to my door.  As I unlocked the car, I noticed her make a face – and quickly I assumed she was upset about me not opening her door.  There was no reason for the false assumption.  In fact, after asking about the reaction, I found out that it was about a strange old man in a vehicle next to ours.  Someone looked like a donkey, and it wasn’t the strange old man.

Making assumptions can create turbulence, hurt feelings, and create unnecessary delays.  An unfortunate reality for us engineers is that we dive deep into our assumptions as well – which makes it even more of a problem.  Even as I’m writing this, I’m making assumptions about what the other SEP Blog Battle bloggers are going to write about.

Let me be clear, forward thinking is not a problem.  The problem is when you make an assumption and it becomes a live round in your game of roulette.  Here are 5 approaches that I use to turn those live rounds into blanks…

*do some homework and validate your assumptions before investing in those assumptions
*force yourself to believe that people generally want the best for everyone
*take a walk in their shoes, and ask yourself what you would do
*ask questions and be curious – not doing so can put someone on the defensive
*prepare for both extreme scenarios – best case, and worse case

And never forget that old assumptions adage…