On Broccoli, Behavior and Assumptions

There’s the stuff you can control, like making sure you eat your broccoli, and then there’s the stuff you can’t control, like making sure the broccoli farmer keeps your grocery store well stocked.

For the stuff you can control, ask “what if” questions around behaviors. Channel your inner-industrialist. Build assembly lines wherever possible. “What if I eat broccoli every Tuesday and Thursday?” “What if I automated _____?” “What if I make sure to slow down and totally customize _____?”

For the stuff you can’t control, ask “what if” questions around the assumptions (aka. expectations). Channel your inner-statistician/gambling junky/weather forecaster. Build rulers, scales, and measurement tools wherever possible. “The broccoli seems to look good to me 70% of the time, but I usually only check on my big weekend trip. What if it’s freshest on Monday’s after they restock the supply that gotten taken out over the weekend?” “What if the odds of _____ were x% instead of y%?” Think about what happened in the past, and what might be different in the future.

Then comes the fun part – mashing them together.

How can your assumptions inform your behavior and vice versa? Can you stop at the grocery store on Monday to pick up your veggies after work? Better yet – an we talk about something that’s not broccoli?

If you want to improve any aspect of your business or life, it starts with a simple “what if” around a few behaviors and/or assumptions.

It seems like most of my professional life is sorting these out and then just trying to not do worse. Not exactly glorious, but when done correctly – it’s so important. How often is the very thing that makes the greatest difference a simple adjustment to a behavior or assumption?

Pro tip: it takes being wrong sometimes to figure out what’s right. As the famous Edison story goes, after being asked about “failing” to invent the light bulb 1 or 10 or 20 thousand times before getting it “right,” he was asked how he felt about those failures. His response? “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.” Take pride in finding the 1,000 ways not to do whatever it is.

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