George Bernard Shaw on the dangers of making assumptions


On his ninetieth birthday, George Bernard Shaw was interviewed by a hapless young journalist. “I hope I shall interview you again on your 100th birthday”, he said to Shaw. “I don’t see why not”, replied Shaw, “you look healthy enough to me”.

A society hostess received similar short shrift upon sending Shaw a card announcing that on a certain day she would be, “At Home”. “So will G. Bernard Shaw”, came the succinct reply (Holroyd, 1997).

One of the lessons most of us learn very quickly in our very first management jobs, is that we should never make assumptions. If something is important, we need to follow through and never assume. To cite the Russian proverb, of which Ronald Reagan was so fond, we must “trust but verify”.

The methods you use in order to verify may not matter that much, just so long as you do so. You may want to follow the advice of Richard Neustadt (1990) who studied US Presidents. He concluded that, ‘when your crown jewels are at stake, you had better micro-manage’.


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