August 15, 2013

Are You Aware Of Your Assumptions

I think my favourite knowledge management process in the peer assist.  Not only does it bring immediate benefit to the team that calls for it but it provides ‘take away’ knowledge to those who attend it.  But perhaps most importantly it teaches companies to ask questions and I would assert that the most successful companies are those companies that ask the most questions.

It is very easy on any project or business activity to assume that we know best; it can’t be improved upon.  It is also very tempting to assume that the assumptions upon which you are basing your decisions are facts.  Are you aware of the assumptions that you are basing your current decision on?

Let me try to illustrate with a personal example.

Since I can remember people in Glasgow have been going to the island of Millport, some for the day, some for their summer vacation.  Today, there are less people who vacation on the small island and most people visit for the day.   Some travel down river on the paddle steamer Waverley (the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world) from Glasgow while most do the 10 minute crossing from Largs.

In Largs there is a 21m tall monument ‘The Pencil’ where the Vikings were defeated during the Battle of Largs in 1263 and like the many people that visited the monument I assumed that it was to commemorate a single battle; a one off event; they came to invade and were driven back into the sea.

However I have just discovered that it wasn’t like that.  It seems that the island of Millport (about 10 minutes offshore from Largs) was the property of the King of Norway for about 150 years before the battle. 

I had always assumed that the monument was put up to mark an invader being repulsed; having been there for about 150 hardly makes them and invader, more like a neighbour.

Assumptions can be dangerous things, especially the ones that you don’t know you are making.  The peer assist process helps to identify these assumptions and suggestions to improve your project or business activity.