Module 1: User Discovery & Needfinding
Why should you use Assumption Mapping?
- Reveals the discrepancy between what is true and what you think is true
- Identifies the factors that have to be validated and invalidated for your project to work
- Provides a framework to focus on the most relevant assumptions in your further research
- It helps understand and align the perspectives of all the members of your team
What is an assumption?
Assumptions are all relevant factors connected to your project that are considered certain or true without a doubt. It is important to identify all those at the start of an innovation project. Challenging assumptions is key for successful projects, and they must be validated throughout the process by (in-depth user) research. The validated or invalidated assumptions then serve as a foundation to generate new ideas and to innovate.
Assumptions can be about the problem space, about the customer or user, or something else related to your project. To check whether your assumptions are phrased well, consider going through this checklist:
- The assumption is a full sentence.
- The assumption is clear and concise, it is understandable for another team member or a random reader.
- The assumption has a level of uncertainty. Facts are no assumptions!
- The assumption describes a relationship, e.g. between a user and what he likes or between an action and an object
- The assumption is relevant to your project.
It is often recommended to think about the desirability, feasibility, and viability of your project. In an early stage project and for user discovery, the focus should clearly be on the desirability. Questions you can ask to come up with assumptions are for example:
- Who is the target customer or user?
- What problem do our customers want to solve?
- How do our customers solve this problem today?
- Why can’t our customers solve this problem today?
- What is the outcome our customers want to achieve?
- Why will our customers stop using their current solution?
Watch this video to see an example how Assumption Mapping can work in a project!
How can you map and identify assumptions?
To identify and map your team's assumptions, you can follow the following steps:
1. Get started
Invite your team members for a short activity of assumption mapping. Teams of 5-7 people work great. At the beginning of the activity, repeat the definition and characteristics of an assumption.
2. Define relevant themes for your challenge.
These themes should always include desirability, but can additionally be Socio-environmental impact, Financing, Distribution, Branding, Functionality, Emotional aspects, Quality, etc.
3. Identify your assumptions
Give each team member post its and a pen. Then, take 5 min in which every team member should identify and write down as many assumptions as possible for each theme. Your goal should be to come up at least with 10 assumptions per person, more is always great.
4. Share your assumptions
Take 10 minutes to share all assumptions that emerged with the whole team.
5. Map your resulting assumptions
in a 2x2 matrix with the following dimensions: How easy/hard it is to validate them and how relevant these assumptions are to your project.
What’s up next?
Validate your relevant assumptions.
Relevant assumptions that are easy to find out are on the top left of your matrix. They can be validated by some literature analysis, a simple online survey, checking legal or technical guidelines and requirements or simply asking an expert who knows more about the facts behind your assumption.
Assumptions that are relevant and hard to find out can be found on the top right of your matrix. They will probably need a more complex approach. You can observe, participate with, or interview users, industry experts, or other people related to your project. But keep in mind, only users can reveal to you what they really want or need!
So you might want to have a look on who your users types are!
whiteboard, Post-Its, markers