August 15

Challenge your assumptions

You may have heard that common saying regarding what happens to u and me when you assume. That saying has got it all wrong. In order to be effective as a product person, you have to make assumptions to start work on a product. What really causes problems is when you don’t challenge those assumptions. That said, there are good and bad ways to challenge assumptions. Here are some resources that will help you challenge assumptions in a productive way without making you come off like a donkey.

The importance of challenging your assumptions. In every product team, there are dozens of assumptions masquerading as knowledge. In this Product Interview, Cindy Alvarez talks about why challenging these assumptions is not only a good idea, but is necessary to the work you do as a product person, whether you work in a start-up, or a large organization.

(via @cindyalvarez)

Learn how to use the best ideation methods: challenge assumptions. There are several ways you can get stuck into patterns of thinking and doing, making innovation difficult. It’s easy to keep doing things the way you’ve always done them and keep doing things that way. Even though change can be scary, you need need to be comfortable with it, considering the rapidly changing environment you work in today. Rikke Dam And Teo Siang suggest one way to get comfortable with change is to question the assumptions you make about how things work.

(via @interacting)

Challenging assumptions example. Challenging assumptions can help you communicate, solve problems, innovate and create new products. Problem is, it can sometimes be difficult to find an example of how you go about challenging assumptions. When you do get examples, they are often simplified examples that aren’t really that helpful. Mike Lehr shares some examples of invisible assumptions that guide your thinking without your knowledge.

(via @mikelehroza)

What is your riskiest assumption? One of your main responsibilities as a product person is making decisions that ensure you and your team is working on the right product. In order to do this, you could seek out information that confirms you’ve made the right decision, but you’ll find it quite easy to identify evidence that supports your decision. Yet you’re still not quite sure. Neda D Stevanović suggests that you should seek out evidence that your decisions are wrong. You need to identify your riskiest assumption and validate whether it is true or not.

(via @mvpworkshop)

Assumption / Validation Flowchart.  It’s one thing to talk about lean startup, validating assumptions and hypothesis testing. But without a clear understanding of the approaches, you could end up with a hypothesis along the lines of “We believe that our users need the thing we’ve designed. We’ll know we’re right if we build it and they use it.” Not helpful. Tami Reiss explains how to avoid this trap by identifying a set of assumption your team is probably making and using experiments to validate those assumptions.

(via @tamireiss)

Kent J McDonald

About the author

Kent J McDonald writes about and practices software product management. He has product development experience in a variety of industries including financial services, health insurance, nonprofit, and automotive. Kent practices his craft with a variety of product teams and provides just in time resources for product people at and Product Collective. When not writing or product managing, Kent is his family’s #ubersherpa, listens to jazz and podcasts (but not necessarily podcasts about jazz), and collects national parks.


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