Jumping to conclusions in a time of change

A hand tosses a coinAs children we work hard to learn how the world works: we test out what happens when we drop our toy; we learn how people respond when we laugh or cry. And after the same pattern has repeated a few times we jump to the conclusion that that is how it will always be. But in a time of change, the world doesn’t necessarily work the way it used to.

Jumping to conclusions is one of the eight common types of mistaken assumption or mis-blink we can easily fall into during times of change — mistaken conclusions about what is going to happen or about how people are going to behave, without checking the facts. The story of David and Goliath provides one clear example. Our recent politics provides a long list of others.

In times of change, jumping to conclusions can reduce our chances of getting the results we want. The problem isn’t necessarily whether we turn out to be right or wrong. The problem is that jumping to conclusions makes us lazy: it stops us from doing the perhaps simple things that would have helped us to get the outcome we want, or prepared us better in case something else happened instead.

What we need to do to avoid jumping to conclusions is:

  • check whether we are making any of the eight potential mis-blinks
  • pause and consider what other interpretations might also be possible
  • assess which ones are more likely
  • get clearer on what outcome we want and why
  • assign resources and take actions appropriately

We might still end up doing the same things and the outcome might still be the same. But by following this approach we get clearer on what we really want and we give ourselves a higher chance of achieving it.

Has anything ever turned out differently from what you were sure was going to happen? What were the consequences? Have you jumped to any conclusions recently, without supporting evidence, about what is going to happen or how people will behave? Is it worth checking whether you’re jumping to conclusions and perhaps taking additional actions?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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