Human Error: Never Assume

Never Assume – The Lesson

I was in graduate school, if you can believe that, and the head of the business school was lecturing. He told us one of the most important lessons he ever learned was ‘Never Assume.’ He told us that there was a brand new building opening and he had written, re-written and agonized over every word in the press release to send across the nation. He asked his secretary to remind him first thing in the morning so he could send off his proud release. She walked into his office that morning and said, “Here is the press release, do you want to review before sending?”  He said, “No.”

Never Assume – The Mnemonic (Ass-U-Me)

The press release went out, but it was the first draft complete with errors and the wrong date. He said, “I should of checked it. I should have never assumed it to be correct.” He paused and then added, “I learned that when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me (ass-u-me).”

Never Assume – The Joke

Conservative Member of Parliament Geoffrey Dickens tells of attending a fair in his constituency and being followed around by a sweet but exceptionally ugly woman whom he couldn’t get rid of.

A few days later he got an admiring letter from her asking for his photograph, and signed, after her name, “(Horseface).” Dickens was touched by her humorous modesty and sent off a picture autographed, “To Horseface, with best wishes, Geoffrey Dickens.”

Some time later his secretary asked him, “Did you get that letter from the woman at the fair? I wrote ‘Horseface’ after her name so you’d know which one she was.”

Never Assume – The Real Lesson?

Hmm, both times the secretary did it. I guess there is a lesson in that as well. The image below reveals how secretaries might reframe that thought.


Never Assume – The Film

 2001 A Space Odyssey: Human Error