Be Cautious in Your Assumptions

Assumptions make it more efficient to operate but also can harm results, so it pays to be cautious in your assumptions.

A Danger

We all tend to let our assumptions and expectations dictate our responses. For example, we may be trying to hire a new employee and rule out someone because they may have failed some in the past and we assume that the past is the best predictor of the future. Not so fast. I love a good quote and this one from Tony Robbins stood out to me, “Your past does not equal your future.” Obviously he is not saying we shouldn’t look at past performance. Rather, he is cautioning about assuming that people, including ourselves, don’t or can’t change. But, think about it. Are you the same as you were 20 years ago? Of course not! Chances are if you think about it you will realize that you have changed quite a bit from just a year ago. Perhaps you heard someone speak and the things they said made you reevaluate how you thought and acted. Maybe they caused you to recognize a short-coming in your behavior or character that you then set about changing. It could be any number of things, but the truth is we all change. If you don’t believe me, just go to a 20th or 25th year high school reunion. You may be surprised to find that some of the people you payed little attention to in high school were suddenly very interesting. They changed and so did you. So, why not consider the same possibility when hiring? Again, be cautious in your assumptions.

But We’ve Always Done It This Way

We all have the tendency to get stuck in a rut, falling back on old habits. Perhaps we have routines for how we handle customer complaints that have been in place for years and see no reason to change them. This can have serious negative ramifications. Consider the following example:

Imagine you have a policy that says, “All sales are final. No returns accepted”? If anyone has ever questioned the policy the attitude has always been, “But we’ve always done it this way.” That is not an unusual policy, but a company might do well to think hard as to whether this is a policy that does more harm than good. What sort of issues might this create? Well, imagine you sell predominately low-priced items and that the cost you have in any one product is not all that much. Say you sell an item for $15.00 that cost you $5.00. Now imagine a customer wants to return the item and you point them to the policy that “All sales are final. No returns accepted”. Several things can happen. One, they may accept your explanation and leave. Two, they may argue with you and leave mad. Three, out of frustration you may give in and give them the refund. That may be the end of it, but then again in any of these scenarios they may tell their friends (who may also be customers or potential customers) about their horrible experience and this word of mouth may damage your company’s reputation, costing you future sales. But, think about this. Is it worth damaging you company’s reputation for something that cost you $5.00, or does it make more sense to simply accept the fact that the $5.00 may be a small price to pay to keep customers happy and the reputation of your company in positive territory?

As you go about your day-to-day business, periodically make it a point to question why something is the way it is. Maybe it’s just an old habit that should be discarded and if necessary replaced with something more useful. Strive to be cautious in your assumptions.

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As always, your comments are welcomed.

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