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Confront Assumptions

Confront Assumptions

Challenge Your Assumptions

    Every time that we approach a problem, in any walk of life, we bring to bear assumptions that limit our ability to conceive fresh solutions. Innovators are always aware of assumptions and are always happy to confront them.

    There is a story told about a northern pike, a large carnivorous freshwater fish. A pike was put into an aquarium, which had a glass partition dividing it. In the other half from the pike there were many small fish. The pike tried repeatedly to eat the fish but each time hit the glass partition. The partition was eventually removed but the pike did not attack the little fish. It had learnt that trying to eat the little fish was futile and painful so it stopped trying. We often suffer from this ‘Pike Syndrome’ where an early experience conditions us into wrong assumptions about similar but different situations.

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    The way that we see things is often circumscribed by assumptions. In the Middle Ages the definition of astronomy was ‘the study of how the heavenly bodies move around the Earth.’ The implicit belief was that the Earth was at centre of the Universe. In 1510 a brilliant Polish astronomer, Nicolai Copernicus, postulated the idea that the Sun was the centre of the solar system and that all the planets revolved around the sun. He was able to explain the motions of the planets in a way that made sense but was totally at odds with convention.

    The atom was originally defined as the smallest indivisible unit of matter. The assumption was that an atom could never be subdivided. This belief hampered the advancement of science until eventually J. J. Thomson discovered the existence of a sub-atomic particle, the electron in 1887.

    In business we make all sorts of assumptions. For example you might hear people say:

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    • Competition sets the price level in our industry
    • We must constantly raise our quality and service delivery
    • Our largest customers are our most important customers
    • We should hire people who fit in well with our team

    Each of these notions needs to be challenged.

    Often it is up to a newcomer to an industry to break the existing orthodoxies. For example:

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      Henry Ford challenged the assumption that automobiles were expensive hand-built carriages for the wealthy.

      Anita Roddick challenged the assumption that cosmetics had to be in expensive bottles. Her retail chain, Body Shop, sold products in plastic containers.

      IKEA challenged assumptions by allowing customers to collect their furniture from the warehouse.

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      The low-cost airlines like South-Western and Easyjet challenged the assumptions that you needed to issue tickets, allocate seats and sell through travel agents.

      Apple challenged the assumption that a personal computer was functional and not aesthetic.

      Assumptions are there to be challenged and you should relish defying them. How can you do this? Here are some tips:

      • Start by recognizing that you and everyone else have ingrained assumptions about every situation.
      • Ask plenty of basic questions in order to discover and challenge those assumptions.
      • Write a list of all the ground rules and assumptions that apply in your environment and then go through the list and ask, ‘What would happen if we deliberately broke this rule?’ ‘What if we did the opposite of the norm?’
      • Pretend you are a complete outsider and ask questions like ‘why do we do it this way at all?’
      • Reduce a situation to its simplest components in order to take it out of your environment.
      • Restate the problem in completely different terms.

      Ken Olsen was CEO of DEC who were great innovators in the days of the minicomputer. He said, “The best assumption to have is that any commonly held belief is wrong.”

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      Paul Sloane

      Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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      Last Updated on September 23, 2020

      Do What You Love and Love What You Do to Achieve More

      Do What You Love and Love What You Do to Achieve More

      Are you waking up each day looking for that perfect thing, activity, or job that will make your life work? Or, maybe you are looking for that perfect relationship. Once you “get” this new thing that will allow you to do what you love, you are sure that you will be happy forever.

      In reality, life doesn’t work like that, and we would probably get bored if it did. There is likely no one thing, experience, or activity that will keep you feeling passionate and engaged all the time. What’s important is staying connected to what you love and continuing to grow in the process.

      Here, we’ll talk about how to get started doing what you love and achieving more in life through the motivation it brings. Doing this doesn’t have to take a long time; it just takes determination and energy.

      Most People Already Know Their Passion

      So many people walk around in life “looking for” their passion. They look for it as if true passion is some mysterious thing that is difficult to find and runs away once you find it. However, the problem is rarely lack of passion.

      Most of us already know what we love to do. We know what excites us, even if we haven’t done it for years. Instead, we focus on what we think we “must” do.

      For example, maybe you love building model cars or painting pet portraits. Yet, each day you work a completely unrelated job and make no time for the activity you already know you love. The truth is you probably don’t need to find your passion; you just need to start doing what you already know you’re passionate about[1].

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      No Activity Is Exciting All the Time

      Even people who are living their dream lifestyle or working their dream job don’t love it all the time. Every job or lifestyle has parts of it that we won’t like.

      Let’s say your dream is to become an actress, and you succeed. You may not enjoy the process of auditioning and facing rejection. You may experience moments of boredom when you practice your lines over and over again. But the overall experience is totally worth it.

      Most of life is like that. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by demanding that life be perfect all the time. If things were perfect and easy, you would ultimately stop learning and growing, and life would begin to lack even more meaning in that case.

      Be grateful for both the good and bad moments as they are both entirely necessary if you genuinely want to do what you love and love what you do.

      Doing What You Love May Not Be Easy

      Living a life you love is unlikely to be easy. If it was, you would not grow very much as a person. And, if you think about a great book or movie, the growth of the main character is what matters most.

      What if the challenges you meet along your path to living a life you love were designed to make you grow as a person? You may actually start looking forward to challenges instead of dreading them. An easy life hardly ever makes a compelling story.

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      If you struggle to overcome challenges, try writing them down each time you encounter one. Then, write down three ways you could tackle it. Try one, and if it doesn’t work, try another. This way, you’ll learn what does and doesn’t work for you.

      How to Do What You Love

      There are many small steps you can take to ensure you are making time to do the things you love. Start with these, and you’ll likely find that you’re already on the right track.

      1. Choose Your Priorities Wisely

      Many people claim they want to do something, yet they don’t do it. The truth is they might not really want to do it in the first place[2].

      We all end up following through on what matters most to us. We make decisions moment by moment about what we need to focus on. What we choose to do is what we deem most important in our lives.

      If there is something you claim you want to do but you don’t do it, try asking yourself how much you really want it or where it’s currently placed on priority list. Are there other things you want more?

      Be honest with yourself: what you currently do each day is a reflection of your priorities. Recognize that you can change your priorities at any time.

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      Make a list of your priorities. Really take the time to think this through. Then, ask yourself if what you are doing each day reflects them. For example, if you believe your top priority is spending more time with your family, but you consistently take on extra hours at work, you’re not really prioritizing things in the way you think you are.

      If this is happening, it’s time to make a change.

      2. Do One Small Thing Each Day

      As stated above, doing what you love doesn’t have to mean finding that perfect job that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. If you want to do what you love, start with one small thing each day.

      Maybe you love reading a good book. Take ten minutes before bed to read.

      Maybe you love swimming. Get a membership at the local YMCA, and go there for thirty minutes after work each day.

      Dedicating even a short amount of time to something that brings you joy each day will improve your life overall. You may find that, over time, a career path related to what you love to do pops up. After doing the thing you love each day, you’ll be more than prepared to take it on when the opportunity arises.

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      If you need help making time for your passions, check out this article to get started.

      3. Prepare to Make Sacrifices

      If you are an exceptionally busy person (aren’t we all?), you may have to make sacrifices in order to make space for the things you are passionate about. Maybe you take on less extra hours at the office or take thirty minutes away from another hobby in order to develop another that you enjoy.

      Looking at your priority list will help you decide what can get put on the back burner and what can’t. Remember, do this thinking about what will help you feel good about how you’re spending your time. 

      For example, if you love writing but rarely make time for it, consider getting up 30 minutes earlier than normal. Or instead of browsing your phone for 30 minutes before bed, you can write instead. There is always a way to find time for what you love.

      Final Thoughts

      If you love what you do, each day becomes a joyful adventure. If you don’t love what you are doing, life feels like a chore. The best way to achieve success is to design a life you love and live it every day.

      Remember, doing something you love doesn’t have to include big gestures or time-consuming projects. Start small and grow from there.

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      Featured photo credit: William Recinos via unsplash.com

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