#5minSecurityread: The prison of toxic assumptions.

News and information from the Advent IM team.

A five minute read from one of the team

Thank you to our Head of Client Development, Derek Willins

The COVID -19 lockdown has reminded me about something I learned a few years ago. It was the concept of toxic assumptions. They are effectively thinking boundaries (or firewalls if you like) that create organisational inertia and stifle innovation and change. They create the ‘culture’ of how things are done around here, and become the key reason why culture is so hard to change. They are embedded deep and usually go unquestioned.

Technology change has gone a long way to reveal many toxic assumptions that were hidden. For instance, music retailer’s toxic assumption that customers will always want their music in physical vinyl or CDs, has been swept away by online streaming, or that people will always need to go to a travel agent to book their holiday. The list is endless.

As the speed of societal change accelerates, I assumed (toxically, of course), that the toxic assumption syndrome would have disappeared by now, as it feels like anything can happen at any time in business. But I was wrong. In the last two years I have come across examples in the security industry as follows;

  • We have nothing of value for cyber criminals.
  • IT is responsible for security not us.
  • We don’t need much security, everything is in the cloud now
  • No one is responsible as everything is outsourced.
  • We can’t do anything because of the skills shortage

The reason that these are toxic assumptions – is that our experience has shown time and again, that this thinking is proven to create enormous risk, and will almost certainly end in disaster.

Now that many of us are in lockdown and working from home, it is a perfect opportunity to reflect on what toxic assumptions exist in your organisation or in your head. Write them down and start a conversation with colleagues. It’s the start of a journey that starts with honestly examining the self-imposed boundaries that you exist within, and asking yourself: what if? Something positive may come out of this virus after all.


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