January 22, 2018

The importance of testing assumptions in the disruptive world

In my previous article, I touched on the downfalls of the comfort zone and how stepping into the discomfort zone is critical in our rapidly changing world. In this article, I will push further into how testing our assumptions through discomfort is important in our disruptive world.

First, let us briefly step back and look at the bigger picture. One of the many characteristics that make us humans is the natural tendency to make assumptions. We tend to draw conclusions and understand certain situations purely from the patterns of our past experiences, usually without looking beyond those assumptions.

We make assumptions because it is practical for our minds to process the world this way. We make assumptions simply on the basis of our experiences, often with no solid evidence. The thing is, if we try to refresh and reset our minds and completely ignore our past experiences when facing different kinds of situations, we can avoid making assumptions.

However, refreshing your mind when you encounter different situations is usually mentally exhausting and quite unrealistic. Assumptions often arise subconsciously, in a way that we don’t even realise we are assuming, so it is not easy to just stop doing so completely.

Moreover, as it is an automatic and natural response for our minds to assume but there’s no real solid evidence to support it, this is where testing those assumptions becomes important. By testing your assumptions, you will be able to truly validate them.

So, why is it so important to validate your assumptions?

First, assumptions can act as constraints in our minds. There is a certain degree of negativity that is attached to assuming. This negative connotation to assumptions has some truth. They have the power that can stop us at our tracks and hinder us, and even our businesses, from moving forward.

Also, we cannot say that all assumptions are wrong and invalid; rather, our assumptions may or may not be true or relevant, and we will never know for sure if we stop right at just assuming; hence, testing those assumptions is important.

In a way, assumptions act as roadblocks, and overcoming them is critical for our businesses. In a world that is constantly moving with disruption happening in all directions, any roadblock could very well be the reason you end up among the disrupted.

Second, testing our assumptions can open up new insights regarding ourselves and our businesses. The new insight can even lead to new opportunities or even new perspectives that you may have otherwise overlooked.

In today’s disruptive and fast-changing world, new opportunities or new perspectives can be just what our businesses may need in order to innovate and rise above disruption. Testing our assumptions could open up our minds to those opportunities and perspectives.

Unfortunately, testing assumptions does not automatically yield positive results. In some cases, the results of testing those assumptions can be unexpected and disappointing, leading you to believe you have failed and wasted your time.

But don’t let small disappointments deter you. As Tom Peters, the renowned American business management writer, has said: “Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast.”

Without testing your assumptions, you will never be able to know what the outcome would be, and if you do not know, you will constantly be troubled by thoughts of “what if …”

No matter what the direct outcome is, testing your assumptions will somehow lead to future success. Despite failure, you will always learn something valuable from testing assumptions, which will ultimately lead your organisation forward.

In order to test our assumptions, we must be ready to venture into the discomfort zone. Many of us, myself included, are not completely willing to put ourselves through any level of discomfort. It is difficult and often very stressful. However, with an understanding of our own limits, venturing into the discomfort zone and testing our assumptions are necessary, if e want ourselves and our businesses to grow.

Simply stated, assumptions can sometimes be seen as roadblocks. But like every obstacle, there is a way to overcome and use it to your advantage. By venturing into the discomfort zone and testing assumptions, you allow yourself to be free of “what ifs”, open up a whole new world for yourself and your organisation, and prepare yourself to rise above disruption.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s leading executive, leadership and innovation capability development centre. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa

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