A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
- Proverbs 18:2 -
If you’re like me, you’ve been warned about the problems that come with assumptions since you were a child. Drawing conclusions about an idea, a project or a task without getting the full story often leaves the assumer up a creek without a paddle. When assumptions are drawn, there is no proof to fall back on. Of course, in a business sense, we can see how this becomes a problem. If business decisions are made based on assumptions, it can be increasingly difficult to go back to the source of the problem and fix it.
But to me, the real problem with assumptions is the vacuum it creates. In a work environment, making assumptions eliminates the opportunity for creative discussion. When you assume something, the full responsibility and weight of your decision falls solely on you. But when you discuss an idea as a team, there’s communication, and we can help one another see any potential problems, areas of weakness, or areas of opportunity that would have been otherwise missed.
In my life, there are not many areas in which making a decision completely by myself and for myself is a good idea. The same is true for business. Making decisions completely by yourself—without the counsel of many—is, in essence, making an assumption. You’re drawing conclusions about how your team will react, how your customers will respond, and how the decision impacts the company largely without including any of those parties into the decision-making process. The importance of including all of these parties in our decisions is the very reason why even the people who have been judged the most capable decision-makers in our society—judges, the president, executives—are surrounded by people and groups who act as sounding boards—like juries, the Cabinet, and boards of directors.
Take pride in finding a solid sounding board. My sounding board includes some of my longest business partners, and they’ve become trusted advisers not only in business matters, but often personal ones, too. It can be a great source of comfort to know that you have a team of people to turn to for big decisions and conversations—but sounding boards are helpful for small, seemingly innocuous decisions, too. That’s why we have them! To confirm that we’re seeing our obstacles and opportunities for what they are, not what we assume them to be.
Who is on your board?