Challenge Your Assumptions, Change Your World

By: Andy Cohen

Andy Cohen, New York Times notable author of Follow the Other Hand, introduces the Assumpt! a breakthrough way to make better business decisions and generate fresh thinking. An Assumpt! is an explicit assumption. Assumpt-ing means that you declare your assumption and show it as a “strong opinion, loosely held”. By studying Cohen's work you will learn how to turn everyday assumptions into new opportunities that enhance your business and your life. This book shows you how to identify and manage your assumptions so that you see things for what they are, or are not, in order to make the best decisions under any circumstance.

Humans regularly make assumptions about our capabilities and how the world works. Of times, we aren’t aware of the assumptions that we make, allowing them to form subconsciously. As it relates to innovation, the line “we’ve already tried that” tends to be a major roadblock . The burden of knowledge that comes from years of practice and the assumptions associated with the acquisition of information tends to leave companies exposed because of dangerous blind spots. Cohen highlights how these assumptions can have nasty side effects. If you haven’t made your assumptions explicit and also step back to challenge them, you are facing the very real possibility of running into difficulties.

In our business we use the ATAR forecasting model, but any style of forecasting means that you are going to make a set of explicit assumptions. A forecast for something new to the world is inevitably going to be wrong. There’s really no way to accurately predict the future, but that doesn’t mean that the exercise is a waste of time. You should make assumptions about the market size or adoption rate of your what you are bringing to market. However, by knowing that these are explicit assumptions you are then able to challenge them, allowing for tighter ranges of variance with the inaccuracy of your model.

His methods can also be applied in the context of challenging the common knowledge of your industry, information that is always a collection of assumptions. In order to innovate you must challenge this common knowledge.. Cohen uses a lot of great examples to illustrate this concept. A hilarious one was from Harry Houdini, the master of the escape, who got into a friends car and couldn’t get out of the car because the handle functioned differently from how he assumed car doors should be used. Even when you are dealing with the industry leaders, do not be afraid to challenge their wisdom by viewing what they say as merely a collection of assumptions.

Cohen created a great resource known as DAD, or the Dangerous Assumptions Database, that compiles assumptions made in the world in the back of the book. This cool idea documents the assumptions that are made daily and helps to illuminate the blind spots that exist within our own lives. Through appreciating this way of thinking we are afforded the mental flexibility that keep us from accidentally driving off of a cliff, within whichever context that danger presents itself. If you listen to Andy’s talks (and he is an excellent public speaker) you will notice that his voice sounds very similar to the language used within this book. It feels like he is right there next to you as you read and this makes Challenge Your Assumptions, Change Your World even more enjoyable.

By drawing upon two decades of real-world marketing, research and personal experience, Cohen provides the insights, tools and courage to challenge the assumptions that will change your world.