October  2015
Two most important questions to ask
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Two most important questions to ask

"I donít have time to think!" is an expression Iíve heard many times throughout my career.  This statement is actually meaningless.  

The statement really should be
"I donít have time not to think!".

We often encounter situations when decisions must be made quickly.  No matter how quickly you need to respond, your brain will always do some thinking, consciously or unconsciously.  Your brain will always make some assumptions about the situation and based on those assumptions, youíll come to a conclusion and act.   While you may not have time to do a deep analysis of the situation, or even ask a lot of questions, you do have time to ask one or two critical questions.  These questions might make the difference between a success or an oops.

But what about reflex, or "instinctive" actions?   Reflex actions are defined as an action that is performed as a response to a stimulus and without conscious thought; such as pulling your hand away from a hot frying pan.  Real life business and personal situations however rarely require reflex actions.

If a decision is urgent and you have time to only ask or ponder one thing, ask the #1 question;
What assumptions are being made?  Your brain is going to make assumptions, so you might as well understand what those are.

Youíll almost always have time to ask the #2 question;
Why are those assumptions being made? Asking this question prevents you from making bad assumptions, which lead to bad decisions.

Based on just these two questions, youíll have a more thoughtful conclusion and raise the probability of a successful decision.   Of course, if you make assumptions that donít have a strong foundation (based on the response to "why are those assumptions being made?"), then you will likely make a bad or risky decision and regret it later.

But what about the expression "Donít make assumptions?"  You cannot come to a conclusion about something without assumptions, so "Donít make assumptions" is also meaningless.   That expression comes from mistakes made when you donít ask "What assumptions are being made?".   Since youíre brain is going to make assumptions, being conscious about what they are will go a long way to prevent the bad ones.

When you ask "Why are those assumptions being made?", the response will usually be related to experiences, or information that is at hand.   By understanding this, you can quickly assess if this foundation is reliable and strong.  

The Takeaway:  We live in a busy world, often with little time to make decisions ... but we have time to think, and while not always enough time to deeply analyze, enough time to ask two questions ďWhat are the assumptions, and Why?".   These two questions will make a huge difference in the quality of decisions you make.

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