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Assumptions are bad

by Miki Saxon

Assumptions. They’re bad for your health, wealth, business and all human interactions. I’ve previously written about how they influence the workplace, but I saw a story this morning that really tickled me as proof of how costly assumptions are to businesses and entire industries.

The article is about how the bike industry found a way to revitalize a falling market with bikes that automatically shift gears. Here’s what caught my eye, “Shimano spent several years figuring out why ridership has decreased, and realized people wanted to ride for fun…The company was shocked to realize its efforts at making newer, more high-performance bikes weren’t winning over new riders.”

“We come to find out these people not only don’t want high performance, they don’t even care about it.”

Notice the final words, “they don’t even care about it.”

The assumption that high performance was critical came from people in the industry—people most likely to be classed as avid cyclists and to whom performance was a key issue, and that assumption was generalized to the entire population.

It’s always that way. Every time someone finds that their belief/attitude/assumption isn’t held by everyone, or at least by the specific group they’re focused upon, they are amazed and even shocked.

How many times have you read an article, such as the one above, and your reaction was, “Well, duh!” That was my reaction to the amazement expressed when performance didn’t matter to the general public.

“Duh,” is my reaction to my own assumptions when they get in the way of my human interactions.

And “Duh,” is my very silent reaction to many of the assumption-based management quandaries I deal with every day—also the managers’ reaction, not silent, once they identify it.

2 Responses to “Assumptions are bad”
  1. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] Following up on my previous post about how the assumption that performance was the most critical buying issue in cycling helped flatten an industry, comes yet another example of how assumptions lead astray. […]

  2. Innovation leadership is often about fun Says:

    […] year I wrote two posts on the error of assumptions in innovation (here and here) focusing on a diverse set of […]

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