Assumptions and how to challenge them

What are Assumptions?

On a daily basis we all make assumptions. Some are conscious however many of them are unconscious. Those that are unconscious have become habitual ways of thinking.

Assumptions serve a useful purpose

They provide a short cut in our thinking. For example, I assume that health professionals care about my health when I go to see them. I don’t need to think this through, although with any new practitioner I may be wary and check out my assumptions in advance by seeking feedback from others. On the other hand if I am walking down a city street at night and I hear footsteps coming up behind me I assume that I could be in danger and start to react.

What happens when we make assumptions?

We often receive self-confirming feedback. Perhaps not always in the case of the danger at night, thank goodness. However, if we assume that someone is going to act towards us in a positive way then we show this in our attitude towards them and it normally gets reciprocated. Equally if we assume someone will be hostile, our actions show this and this is also often reciprocated.

The Ladder of Inference

I have written previously about assumptions and referred to a framework called a Ladder of Inference first proposed by  Chris Argyris. 

As you can see from this, we observe something, select data from this observation, add meaning to this date and then make assumptions, which in time lead to beliefs and eventually turn into actions

Assumptions over time become beliefs

As a result turn into ‘facts’. In organisations this is how group think and mind sets develop. Sometimes it needs a new person to come in and challenge these assumptions in order to break out of set ways of thinking.

Challenging our Assumptions

There are techniques  that can help challenge assumptions

The first way in which you can challenge assumptions is to work backwards down the ladder of Inference.  Check out how your beliefs and assumptions were formed. Did you ignore any other relevant data?

In Creative Problem Solving (CPS),  it is crucial that assumptions are challenged in order to address the core problem and find effective solutions.

An exercise I have found very useful in working to challenge assumptions in any particular situation is one developed by Peter Senge, based upon the ladder of inference, called The Left Hand Column.

Take a piece of paper and draw two columns. On the right hand side you state the facts, or what was said in a situation. Against each of these points on the left hand side you write what you were thinking.

As this shows the progression of thoughts and the development of assumptions in any situation, it can throw light on our perception of a situation. It can be very helpful in surfacing assumptions in any situation and can lead to an analysis of why challenging situations have arisen.

Another way to challenge assumptions

Ensure that there is diversity in any team and to invite in people from different backgrounds. In CPS terms this is known as ‘fresh eye’, as people from different backgrounds will most likely have different perceptions to any problem.

Do you have any examples of ways in which assumptions are challenged?

 

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. which covers the process of CPS and techniques that can help challenge assumptions.

The Importance of Mindsets

Have you ever wondered why some people always respond in the same way in certain situations? In the workplace, when faced with change, one response often heard is ‘well we have already tried this, and it didn’t work’.

Another is ‘yes that’s a good idea but…

What is a Mindset?

These responses are signs of a mindset. The mindset in this example is that of a having a negative response to the world around us. Although an overworked cliche, it’s the way of seeing the world as a glass half empty rather than a glass half full.

Mind sets are ways in which we habitually respond to our world and represent our prevailing attitudes. They develop from the way we perceive and how we interpret those perceptions.   As they have become habits we often use them without thinking. They can become automatic.

A Positive v. Negative Mindset

Some mind sets, such as the one I have mentioned above can have negative consequences both for ourselves and others around us. If we are continually responding with a ‘yes, but’, then people will stop involving us in new projects. We will be always putting up barriers. Continue reading “The Importance of Mindsets”

Why image based creative tools are better than words

Recently I have facilitated  three creative workshops, 2 which were focused on creative problem solving and one which was a process of personal development. The common denominator in each was not just that they were creative but that I used drawing, images and collage as tools in the process. The results underline the value in using image based work in problem solving and change. Continue reading “Why image based creative tools are better than words”

Enabling change in an energised way

I have been enabling change for as long as I have been working! This has taken many forms, as a manager, a teacher, trainer, facilitator and coach. One of the constant challenges I have found is how to gain peoples buy in to what can be a very painful process. If we are honest, few of us like change initially. You just have to look at the way people choose to sit in the same seats every day on their daily commute! We create our own comfort zones by forming habits and performing rituals on a  daily basis. This provides a sense of security and I am not knocking this as I need this as much as anyone, however we do need to be pushed out of our comfort zones in order to grow and develop and for change to happen. Continue reading “Enabling change in an energised way”

4 ways passion is important at work

Passion can be defined as any powerful or compelling emotion. This can be either positive or negative and wars have been fought due to the level of negative emotion.  So, what does passion mean in a work context?

4 ways in which passion is important at work

  1. Passion is strongly correlated with motivation. If people are passionate about what they are doing then they will be motivated. Motivation and passion will keep you going and developing

“The thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.” – Malcolm Gladwell Continue reading “4 ways passion is important at work”

10 Creativity Tips

Kangeroo builder110 creativity tips which can help you with new ideas and to challenge assumptions.

    1. Be open to possibilities – this means thinking ‘yes and’, not ‘yes but’ and keeping all senses on alert for new ways of ‘seeing’. Not being judgemental and not jumping to defensiveness. When faced with someone else making a proposal that you would normally reject, take time to consider how it could work and then how you could build upon it.

Continue reading “10 Creativity Tips”

For Innovation-how to generate ideas

It has been reported recently that the famous 20% idea time through which Google encouraged employees to work on their own projects, is no longer in use.

However on further research it would seem that it is in principle still possible for Google employees to work on individual projects but the pressure of time is such that employees often end up working 120% overall. Continue reading “For Innovation-how to generate ideas”

The importance of Passion in Creativity and Flow

Recently I have been revisiting the concept of flow as discussed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  who has described ‘Flow’ as being a ‘state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work’. In the link above he talks about happiness and being absorbed by what we do to the extent that we have not capacity to pay attention to anything else.  Continue reading “The importance of Passion in Creativity and Flow”

What to do after you have created a vision?

I read and even write a lot about vision and the importance of it for establishing a direction. However it is not always clear what you need to do after creating your vision.

Many organisations talk about creating a vision statement and this just doesn’t work for me. Visions need to be inspirational and for this to happen they really need to soar above the limitations of words. Continue reading “What to do after you have created a vision?”

The value in creating a shared vision

Creating a shared vision

Creating a vision is essential in any change process because a vision offers us a strong mental image of something we want to create in the future and it can motivate us towards that future. When the vision involves others, then engaging them in a shared vision is extremely valuable. It is more powerful than developing a strategy particularly if it is developed as an image rather than using words. Continue reading “The value in creating a shared vision”