Also called: Knowledge Mapping and Knowledge Visualization
Relevant metrics: Evidence Strength, Certainty, Impact of problem or assumption, and Market size of problem or assumption
What is Assumption Mapping?
Assumption mapping is a process used in product management and user experience design to identify and document assumptions made about a product or service. It is a way to identify and document the assumptions that are made about the product or service, and to ensure that these assumptions are tested and validated.
Assumption mapping involves creating a map of the assumptions that are made about the product or service, and then testing and validating these assumptions. This process helps to ensure that the assumptions are accurate and that the product or service meets the needs of the users.
How to do Assumptions Mapping
The process of assumption mapping begins by identifying the assumptions that are made about the product or service. These assumptions can include assumptions about the user, the product or service, the market, the technology, and the environment. Once the assumptions have been identified, they are documented and tested.
The next step in the process is to validate the assumptions. This involves testing the assumptions to ensure that they are accurate and that the product or service meets the needs of the users. This process can involve user testing, market research, and other methods of testing and validating the assumptions.
Once the assumptions have been tested and validated, the assumptions are documented and used to inform the product or service design. This helps to ensure that the product or service meets the needs of the users and that the assumptions are accurate.
Where did Assumption Mapping come from?
This exercise was first practised by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, co-authors of Lean UX, and later tested with numerous teams while applying the principles of design thinking by David Bland.
Uncovering Hidden Assumptions
Assumption mapping is a valuable tool for uncovering hidden assumptions because it allows for a systematic and structured approach to uncovering assumptions. It involves identifying the assumptions that are underlying a particular problem or situation, and then analyzing them to determine their validity. This process can help to uncover assumptions that may be preventing progress or leading to misunderstandings.
The root cause of the problem often lies in the original objective. The application of Lean Startup methods, for instance, may result in misinterpretation during the Build, Measure, Learn cycle. By starting with the “Build” phase, teams and organizations fall into a pattern of constructing without proper learning, rather than constructing to learn.
“What is it that we wish to learn?”
To avoid this mechanical approach, ask yourself, your tearm, or a stakeholder a crucial question: “What is it that we wish to learn?”. This shift in approach leads to another question: “What assumptions am I making?” The key to delivering thoughtful and quality products and services that cater to human needs lies in this exercise.
“What assumptions am I making?”
Before embarking on the mapping process, consider the these three guidelines:
- All mappings should be grounded in current knowledge.
- Limit each sticky note to a single, succinct statement, avoiding bullet points.
- Strong opinions are encouraged, but should be held with flexibility to accommodate new information.
Use User Story Mapping to feed into Assumptions Mapping workshops
User story mapping can help teams identify key assumptions underlying a project. For example, a team may have an assumption that users will interact with the product in a certain way, or that they will have certain needs or requirements. By bringing these assumptions to light, teams can challenge and validate them in the assumptions mapping workshop.
Types of assumptions
There are several types of assumptions that it makes sense for an assumptions mapping exercise to handle:
- Desirability. Whether a particular end-user or customer wants a product or service, and if there is substantial marketing research or competitive intelligence to support this assumption.
- Viability. Is it worthy to pursue in terms of making us a profitable business.
- Feasibility. Whether the business has the capability to manage and scale a product or service, taking into account the required resources and the key partners involved.
- Ethicality. Should we build it?
- Usability. Are we inventing new interaction design patterns that users will have a hard time to figure out or use?
Benefits of Assumption Mapping
- Reduced Risk. By mapping out assumptions, potential risks can be identified and addressed before they become an issue. This helps to reduce the risk of costly mistakes and delays.
- Improved Problem-Solving. Assumption mapping helps to identify potential problems before they arise, allowing for more effective problem-solving.
- Increased Clarity. Assumption mapping helps to ensure that everyone involved in the project has a clear understanding of the assumptions that are being made, which can help to reduce confusion and improve the overall outcome.
Challenges of Implementing Assumption Mapping
- Unclear Goals. Assumption mapping can be difficult to implement if the goals of the project are not clearly defined. Without a clear understanding of the desired outcome, it can be difficult to create an effective mapping strategy.
- Lack of Resources. Assumption mapping requires a significant amount of resources, including time, personnel, and financial resources. Without adequate resources, it can be difficult to create an effective mapping strategy.
- Complexity. Assumption mapping can be a complex process, requiring a deep understanding of the project and its goals. Without a thorough understanding of the project, it can be difficult to create an effective mapping strategy.
- Unfamiliarity. Assumption mapping is a relatively new concept, and many organizations may not be familiar with the process. Without a clear understanding of the process, it can be difficult to create an effective mapping strategy.
What is the purpose of the assumption mapping?
Hint The purpose of an assumption mapping is to identify and document the assumptions that are made in a project or process. This helps to ensure that the assumptions are valid and that the project or process is based on accurate information.
What data or information do I need to create an assumption map?
Hint To create an assumption map, you will need to identify the assumptions that are being made in the project or process, as well as the data or information that supports those assumptions.
What are the potential risks associated with making assumptions?
Hint Potential risks associated with making assumptions include incorrect assumptions leading to inaccurate results, or assumptions that are not supported by data or evidence.
How will the assumption map be used?
Hint An assumption map can be used to identify potential risks and to ensure that the assumptions are valid and accurate. It can also be used to inform decision-making and to help stakeholders understand the assumptions that are being made.
What are the potential benefits of using an assumption map?
Hint Potential benefits of using an assumption map include improved accuracy of results, better decision-making, and improved communication between stakeholders.
How will the assumptions be validated?
Hint Assumptions can be validated by gathering data or evidence to support the assumptions. This can include conducting research, surveys, interviews, or other forms of data collection.
How will the assumptions be updated over time?
Hint Assumptions should be updated over time as new data or evidence is gathered. This will help to ensure that the assumptions remain valid and accurate.
What are the potential pitfalls of making assumptions?
Hint Potential pitfalls of making assumptions include incorrect assumptions leading to inaccurate results, or assumptions that are not supported by data or evidence.
How will the assumptions be communicated to stakeholders?
Hint Assumptions should be communicated to stakeholders in a clear and concise manner. This can include providing written documentation or holding meetings to discuss the assumptions.
How will the assumptions be documented?
Hint Assumptions should be documented in a clear and organized manner. This can include creating an assumption map or writing a report that outlines the assumptions.
- Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono (1985)
- Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People by G. Richard Shell (2000)
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell (1998)
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