Home > Business, Inspiration, Leadership, mentor, Self Help > Fact or Assumption? I just don’t know.

Fact or Assumption? I just don’t know.

Most people think they know the difference between a fact and an assumption.  They are very different.  The problem is that sometimes you might make plans off of assumptions and convince yourself that they are facts.  So what do you do?

You need to first recognize that facts are facts.  They are guaranteed and absolutes.  The sun rising each morning is just about the only fact that is guaranteed.  Even though the sun can rise at different times depending on the time of year, the sun will still rise.

It the sun going to rise?

Assumptions are much more fun and frustrating.  Assumptions allow your imagination to run wild.  They can project into the future.  They are your crystal ball.  You can assume that your idea will be the best idea in the world based off of some well thought out projections.  Those projections are just your best guess but if you continue to pour over the idea, numbers or business plan you can convince yourself that it will be the next big thing.  The problem is, all you’ve done is convince yourself that your assumptions are probably going to turn into facts.  Only time will tell.

Make a list.

You need to take a very hard look at your project and break it down into bite-sized segments.  In theory this is a very easy task.   Make a list and divide it into two columns, one labels Facts and the other Assumptions and start filling it in.  What you’ll find is that you are invariably going to put assumptions into the facts column.  As long as you realize that those “soft facts” are not “hard facts” you can leave them there.  Depending on your project you may need to.

Now that you have your list start putting your plan together.  Fill in the Who, What, When, Where and Why of the plan.  Consider your logistics and communication plans while still refering back to your Facts and Assumptions chart.

As you begin to execute your plan it is your job to monitor those facts and assumptions.  You’ll find that they all will move to a gray area.  Some will be confirmed and some will be disproved.  That’s okay too.  Your plan is a living breathing organism that will grow because your project is receiving new inputs from its environment.  Your job is to continue to steer your project towards the goal, validating facts as you move along and monitoring your assumptions.

You’ll see rather quickly if your assumptions were valid as well as your facts.  Because if you just moved to Barrow, Alaska, you’d be surprised to find that the sun hasn’t risen since mid November.  Don’t worry, you’ve only got a week left before the sun will rise again.  And that’s a fact.

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  1. January 18, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Matt,
    Such a wonderfully simple approach to a critical people skills topic. Assumptions, often hidden, can undo teams, leaders, and business relationships. Even if the relationship/business survives the assumptions, the conflict along the way inhibits productivity and leaves scars.

    Great reminder – bravo! I will RT on Twitter.
    Kate

  2. January 18, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Thanks Kate,

    It’s very easy to “assume away” a problem. Documenting assumptions can be like writing great fiction, you can just make up the landscape and package it up in a pretty box. No matter how neat and tidy it looks, you could be wildly incorrect.

    Look at Myspace. They had a lot of great assumptions about social networking and it’s potential.

    Now myspace is a shell of it’s former self and facebook is king. They both probably had a lot of the same assumptions.

    -Matt

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