This blog is called Critical Assumption - mostly because I like the phrase and secondly because we all make assumptions, but only a few are actually critical. That being said, I've been thinking about assumptions we make and wanted to throw out some additional insights...
1. Assumptions are NOT BAD -- we view our world through a very personal lense - based upon our personal experiences, cultural background, exposure to "the world", knowledge [or lack there of] and of course ego. There are many people that believe making an assumption about "something" is bad, that you should have all the information and make a very informed decision after carefully weighing all the "data". That's just not reality. You have to make assumptions in your life [both personal and professional] because waiting until "all the data is in" takes too long. If you can't make a decision - with some facts and some assumptions - then you are going to be left behind.
2. Assumptions provide SPEED -- If we can't wait for all the data, then the only thing we can do is get "good enough" data, fill in the blanks with our best guesses and move on. This provides us with some level of speed. Now once again, I'm not talking about "shooting from hip", I'm talking about making and informed decision, with less than perfect data. Malcom Gladwell talked about his in his book "BLINK" -- about how all of us can make decisions [or assess a situation] in an instant and that the decision can be the right one, with out having all the data to support it. My belief is that fear drives us in our decision making [or our lack of decision making] more often than anything else. We are looking to avoid a situation that is perceived as negative, rather than move towards something would provide great benefit to us in our lives.
3. Assumptions need to be TESTED -- The mistake most of us make is that we do not test our assumptions. We make decisions based upon them, but rarely do we cirlce back around to see if they are actually true. In many cases, the old saying "only time will tell" is very appropriate when testing our assumptions. Take the case of a new product or business idea - we have to make certain assumptions around market adoption, target market, competitive environment, etc. -- but if you're two years down the road and are still basing your "next year's plan" on the same assumptions, you could be fooling yourself. Go back and look at the areas where you did not have really good information [but made a decision anyway] and see if that assumption was right. If it was, then it's no longer an assumption, it's fact. If you were wrong, then adjust based upon this new information.
Remember, assumptions are nothing more than temporary information - they are not fact, but then again, they are not completely fiction either. Used wisely, assumptions can help you speed your decision making, create better plans, provide guidance, and see you through your planning process. Assumptions are good, but they need to be tested and re-evaluated from time to time. There you go, some additional thoughts on assumptions.