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Management, Business












Presumptions are like emotions; they’re automatic responses to the situations we face.
Presumptions are like emotions; they’re automatic responses to the situations we face.

Beware presumptions! They’re a management trap you must avoid

It’s human nature to make presumptions, but they can end in disaster. DALE FURTWENGLER explains how you can avoid making mistakes with self-reflection.

While presumptions can simplify life, beware! They are equally likely to produce unintended results, particularly in business.

Recently, I helped a friend develop a marketing message. I offered several suggestions based on what I presumed to be the interests of his market.

As I reflected on our conversation later in the day, I realised that I hadn’t asked him any questions about the market or the results of previous attempts to reach said market. In that moment, I realised how often we act on presumptions that could be, and often are, erroneous.

Presumptions arise naturally based on our prior experiences. They’re insidious in that we don’t realise that we’re making presumptions or that we are doing so without exploring both sides of the issue.

In the situation outlined above, I offered advice after realising that I had no idea what strategies had worked previously in the past.

I didn’t know what fears, anxiety, and frustration the management in his target market were experiencing. His background is working with larger organisations, while I specialise in smaller to medium-sized businesses. I hadn’t appropriately factored that difference into our discussion.

Learning from history

It’s important to make an effort to understand the successes and failures of previous strategies. In the example I outlined above, I didn’t have a strong understanding of what results had been produced by his previous marketing campaigns.

Without this knowledge, how could I have concluded that my advice would benefit him? How could I be confident that my insight would lead to improved results?

"Without this knowledge, how could I have concluded that my advice would benefit him? How could I be confident that my insight would lead to improved results?"

The simple answer is that I could only reach that conclusion by presuming that my prior experience was relevant - without the benefit of thorough analysis!

Over the years, I had intentionally avoided the market he works within; consequently, there was little chance that I would understand the industry's intricacies, which are crucial in reaching an audience effectively with a marketing campaign.

I presumed they were the same as those of the smaller and medium businesses I preferred working with. While that may be true in some instances, I’m sure there are other motivations and factors to consider when working with larger organisations.

Without asking questions, I could only make presumptions about these factors and motivations because I have little first-hand knowledge to operate from.

Market preferences

I mentioned that I had intentionally avoided working with his target market. My experience with large organisations, albeit limited, was that they are heavily bureaucratic and slow-moving.

In other words, their modus operandi isn’t aligned with my preference for a results-oriented, quick analysis, quick decision-making approach, which is often the hallmark of a small to medium-sized business, such as a jewellery store.

That is not to say that my preferences are correct, while others are wrong. It simply means that the likelihood of either approach proving successful in the other market is small.

That said, it’s easy to understand how presumptions about the interests of others - when you have a different preference and strategy – can be way off the mark.

With the importance of avoiding presumptions established, let’s examine a better approach for dealing with these kinds of situations.

Question everything

Presumptions are like emotions; they’re automatic responses to the situations we face. We naturally draw upon prior experiences to help navigate the current situation.  Because presumptions arise naturally, and we can’t prevent ourselves from making them, you must allow them to occur – and then pause.

Take the time to ask yourself important questions, such as: What information am I missing that might alter my perception of these circumstances? What could I be overlooking?

As an example of this in action, during my reflection on the example I detailed above, I realised that I didn’t understand enough about my friend’s target market. I didn’t know the concerns of the leaders in his field, and I also didn’t particularly like working with his market!

Those are important factors that, when overlooked, led to significant deficiencies in my knowledge –yet I still offered him advice. I’m sure you’ll agree this was not the right move, especially with a friend.

Fortunately, it’s easy to improve on these kinds of mistakes. You can begin each day by reminding yourself that you won’t offer advice until you’ve asked yourself the following question: What information am I missing? What could I be overlooking?

If you want to be of value to others, to your business, and your community, develop the habit of challenging your presumptions.

More reading
Purpose: What does your business stand for?
In business, what does it really mean to ‘fail'?
Leadership in business: Look who’s talking!
Don’t be afraid to break the rules
Networking for small business owners is crucial to relationship building

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dale Furtwengler

Founder • Furtwengler & Associates

Dale Furtwengler is the founder of Furtwengler & Associates. Hs is a speaker, author and business consultant. Learn more: pricingforprofitbook.com

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