Does it matter if we make assumptions?

Quality Street

For over 40 years the toffees have been the left-over Quality Street left rattling around at the bottom of the chocolate tin long after the last cracker has been pulled. I’d always assumed this was just the way it was in every household.

Until last week when I posted this…

There was uproar! Who knew?! People like toffee Quality Street and some people even like them BEST! It was a real eye-opener. People said;

‘I like to toffee ones bring them over!!’ 

‘First to go in our house’

‘Entirely different for ours, we always have fruit flavoured ones left’ 

It just goes to show how easily we can make a whole bunch of assumptions about toffee Quality Street as well as other less important topics.

Does it matter if we make assumptions?

It’s not a case of it ‘mattering’ as such. It’s more a case of acknowledging that it’s something that we all do.

We all make assumptions all the time about people, places, books, films, food and pretty much anything and everything you care to list. It’s how humans operate. Our brains, when confronted with a situation, check for a thinking shortcut. We refer back to what we already know about a similar situation that’s occurred before. For example, if the toffees are always left, and if we don’t have different experiences of toffees being liked and eaten we default to the short cut. We make a wrong assumption that ‘toffees are always left and no one likes toffees’.

Making assumptions can mean that we get things wrong (people do like Quality Street toffees!).  It can also inhibit our creativity. If our assumptions, for example, are that ‘we tried it before and it didn’t work – so it’s not likely to work now’ or ‘that’s not how we do things here’ it can limit what we believe might be possible and stop us from exploring new thinking.

So it’s normal to make assumptions. And if you’re trying to think creatively and solve problems in a new way, it can help you if you deliberately start to become aware of the assumptions you’re carrying around with you from your past experiences. Assumptions about situations, or people, or the very problems you’re trying to solve.

The best way I’ve found to shine a light on assumptions is simply to ask yourself ‘What assumptions am I making about this situation?’ Then list them. And then start to work through the assumptions list and ask yourself, ‘Are they right? What if that wasn’t true?’ These questions might reveal some new thinking.

Maybe you’ve got some more tips for challenging assumptions? Do share them below.

And before I forget, I’m partial to the green triangles so if anyone wants to do a swap next Quality Street season then let me know.

If you’d like more help with creativity and innovation, check out the free stuff section and download the free chapter of my book ‘The Innovation Workout’ and the Lucidity Innovation Toolkit. Or if you’d like some specific help, drop me an email at lucy@lucidity.org.uk and we can book in a time to chat.

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