Unwise business assumptions

Snow Leopard
Image via Wikipedia

I remember when I was starting out in the workplace, I took a client file I had been working on to my immediate boss for review. I remember he picked on something I had done and asked about it. I don’t remember the detail but I do know that I said that I had made an assumption about an issue. I remember he boomed at me “Never assume! Always check your facts.” Of course he was quite right and it was a lesson I learned.

In business there is another expression which can sound rather trite, which is that we don’t know what we don’t know. Of course this also applies to our general knowledge. There was a recent short series on BBC Television about the Lost Land of the Tiger which was about looking for and finding (Bengal) tigers in Bhutan, from the forest up into the high Himalayas. Now I had not ever thought much about whether there would be tigers in Bhutan, but watching the programmes I also learned that Bhutan had clouded leopards, golden cats, flying squirrels and more conventional (in my mind) spotted leopards. Now I had assumed I knew that flying squirrels were Australian marsupials and spotted leopards were only found in Africa. I suppose I had no basis for these assumptions, but I thought I knew these assumptions as facts. It turns out there are species of flying squirrel in many parts of the world.

In business there is a great danger of stumbling alone and trying to deal with difficult issues and assuming we know just what to do, or that we know there is no solution to our problem. Most of us have done it. Usually there is help at hand if only we ask for it. We should never assume that we know all the answers, because no one does know all the answers. However, collectively there will be people who between them do know practically all the answers. We only have to ask our network and someone will be there to help. Our network is part of our business team.

Apple Mac enthusiasts will have been disappointed that the Bhutan expedition did not film a snow leopard but only found the remains of a yak a snow leopard had half eaten. Just the same the series was a reminder to me not to assume anything which is outside my area of expertise. What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

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