Assumptions: Why isolating and dealing with our assumptions is important in decision-making

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Assumptions: Why isolating and dealing with our assumptions is important in decision-making.

Oscar Wilde once said: “When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.” We will all have learned the hard way more than once that there’s more to Wilde’s quote than his play on words. Decisions often hinge on assumptions drawn from: 

  • Current insight
  • Market trends
  • Historical insights
  • Expert opinions
  • What the boss thinks
  • What the media said a couple of years ago
  • What did your sales manager say about them after a conference

In many cases, these lay the foundation for strategic planning. But how can we discern if assumptions lead us astray? Recognising potential fallibility and knowing how to adapt swiftly is essential. 

The Assumption Landscape

They act as guiding principles, steering us through the vast industry intricacies. But the waters of our world are perpetually changing. Competitor actions, lies, hype, shifts in consumer behaviour, and emerging technologies influence them. As such, what seemed robust a year ago might be obsolete today. Actually, last week’s are probably wrong. 

We can’t know the intent behind their actions, but as we are human, we assume we do. No? We go to a restaurant, and we believe the chef is qualified and has not put Strychnine into your smashed avocado or pie and chips. We get on a train and assume the driver is qualified. When did you last ask to see their qualifications before jumping on the 0934 to London?

Knowledge gaps

Instantly and subconsciously, we fill in knowledge gaps of actual knowledge with our meanings and conclusions. It’s natural to take these mental shortcuts, and often we are right! But when we are wrong, boy, we can pay the price. We all make them, and it may seem strange for a competitive intelligence agency to admit this. Yes, we do our best to reduce the assumptions we made to be as educated and tested as much as possible. But nothing within intelligence and insight is perfect. Hindsight is usually the best tool for this, and even then, it depends on which camp the experts sit on and their biases and assumptions. But after looking at our assumptions, what are the signs that they may be wrong? 

Signs That Your Assumptions Might Be Off Track

1. Missed Targets

Consistently failing to meet goals could indicate a disparity between reality and assumptions.

2. Market Shifts

Abrupt changes in customer preferences or the rise of new technologies may highlight a need for reevaluation.

3. Competitor Movements

The emergence of new competitors. A radical shift in the strategies of existing ones necessitates reassessment.

4. Customer Feedback

Trends in negative feedback may underline a misalignment with market beliefs.

Strategies for Ensuring Assumption Accuracy

So, how can we increase the chances of our assumptions being correct?

1. Call them out

If we make them, call them out. Get them in the open and write them down. They are not evil but better in the open, where we can see and watch them change. 

2. Look for them

Note how many assumptions you make about other people. And the optimistic one’s, too, by the way 🙂

3. Question your assumptions

Rather than following on automatic pilot, ask, “What are the other possibilities? There’s another assumption there. We assume the automatic pilot works. But have we all seen and used an auto-pilot before? No? Humm.  

4. Admit your assumptions

Notice the assumptions that could be wrong, but dont beat yourself up over them. See, the mother-in-law does have your best intentions at heart. 

5. Continuous Monitoring

Recognise the dynamic nature of the market by constantly updating and recalibrating assumptions.

6. Flexibility in Strategy

Prepare contingency plans or alternative strategies to deploy if core beliefs falter.

What Is Competitive Intelligence and Why Is It Important? 

7. Scenario Planning 

Construct multiple strategic scenarios based on varying assumptions. So, preparing the business for diverse future outcomes.

8. Insight-Driven Decision Making

Harness analytics and real-time market data to affirm or question assumptions.

9. Competitive Intelligence

Keep current on competitors and market shifts to confirm or challenge existing assumptions.

10. Expert Consultation

Engage your competitive intelligence team and Octopus to glean insights and identify them.

11. Internal Collaboration 

Foster cross-departmental interactions. Different teams might possess unique insights that can redefine prevailing assumptions.

12. Risk Mitigation 

Formulate strategies to counter potential adverse effects from misguided assumptions.

Increasing self-awareness and contemplating revised possibilities give our minds enough space to reduce those knee-jerk reactions. You will also help move toward objective facts, intentional behaviour, and better decisions. Replacing assumptions with insight gives you more clarity, reduces conflict and supports efficiency amongst your team.

Assumptions: Why isolating and dealing with them is important in decision-making.

Recognise the importance of assumptions in business strategy and acknowledge their inherent imperfection. You must treat the unknown as an opportunity. Confidently sail through the tumultuous seas of business by scrutinising assumptions. Emphasising insight-backed decisions and maintaining adaptability. It isn’t only about forming assumptions and defining their accuracy and course-correcting effectively. But the first and most crucial step is to find them by admitting they are there. 

Editor: Please note it took a lot of persuading to not have an image of a donkey’s backside to accompany this article.

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