Most of the time, our thinking process happens linearly. In other words, it means that we use the logic of “cause and consequence” to think.
Like a story, for example, “the glass fell on the floor, and because of this, the glass broke… because the glass broke, she got mad at him. Because she got mad at him, she canceled the dinner..”. It keeps going like this. Because of this, then that, because of that, then this… cause and consequence.
We may not be aware that this is how the logic goes in our minds but pay just a little bit of attention, and you will see it happening all the time.
Anyways, what is the relation between our thinking process and the way innovations are born? And how knowing this helps to reduce problems and conflicts in a company?
Well, it tells us about the greatest enemy of creativity, innovation, and harmony: assumptions.
Why assuming is an enemy of innovation?
We can picture a linear thought like many boxes in a line connected side by side.
And when our mind receives information, we fill in each of these boxes with content. The matter is that most of the time we can’t fill all the boxes at once. Not only because there are infinite boxes, but because one will always lead to the next.
So, what do we do with the boxes that are missing content inside? We fill it anyway.
How assumptions are born:
Once you receive the information, you divide it into parts to fill in the right boxes.
As expected, some of these boxes will be empty because there is not enough information for every box.
So, for the boxes you can’t fill in instantly, your mind will come up with something that makes sense to you that bridges the last and the next boxes.
Ok, but what’s wrong with that?
The problem is that we can only create assumptions from the memory we have collected so far. We can only assume based on our previous experiences: situations we faced, results we heard, things we have imagined, and information we had access to.
We are not able to assume things based on information we never knew or had contact with before. We keep repeating in our minds the same story, again and again, limiting possibilities to move from the situation we find ourselves in business or in life.
That’s why assumptions are the most dangerous enemies of alignment, creativity, innovation, and harmony for a company.
Don’t confuse assuming with creating connections between ideas. Connecting thoughts means to link two or more ideas to generate something new. Assuming is filling blanks with no proven information based on previous experiences disconnected from the current one.
3 problems when trusting assumptions
1. Going blindly in the wrong direction
The first problem with trusting assumptions is that the human mind needs to justify everything to feel safe. So, it doesn’t matter if the answer we assume is right or wrong. Just the fact we inserted an answer gives us the feeling of control and safety. That’s the reason why we make assumptions.
2. Losing opportunities of new and fresh perspectives
The second problem with assumptions is that we assume that everyone perceives things the same way we do. That they feel, judge, and think the same way we do. A perspective that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
3. Wasting energy on unnecessary reactions
The third problem is a consequence of the first and second mistakes: we think our assumptions are true! And because of that, we react to it. That’s why making assumptions and acting based on them is almost the same as creating problems and conflict. If you stop to reflect a bit, you will often notice that most of the suffering and drama in our lives come from assumptions. The same principle works for organizations.
How to move towards innovation and fight a culture of stagnation
Questioning is the greatest weapon against assumptions!
When we understand that it is ok to leave the boxes unfilled, we will be comfortable with not knowing. Accepting that we don’t have all the information brings us great gains, which instead of just assuming to have a false sense of safety, we are ready to make progress and find innovative answers by asking questions!
For brands who want to transform and innovate, questioning helps:
- To see things from a new perspective.
- to generate expansion, different from assumptions that limit the possibilities.
- to review how things are done and why they are done in that specific way.
- to create space for conversations, cleaning the fog in discussions, and generating new ideas.
Companies that are brave enough to sow and stimulate a culture of questioning and curiosity are the ones who will harvest aligned teamwork and a pool of ideas and innovation.
What is your perspective on this topic? Share your insights in the comments 🙂