However, because we often rely on our instincts to “fill in the picture”, it’s easy to overlook details during the speed of conversation. In business, we may miss critical information as a result. Sometimes, that can be catastrophic like the Titanic disaster.
Turns out there are nine types of assumptions (Courtesy: Vervago).
- Existence, an assumption that something or someone exists. A claim such as “this solution will solve the customer sat issue”, assumes there is a customer sat issue to begin with.
- Uniqueness, an assumption that there is only one; e.g. only one problem, or only one solution. For example, there is only one customer sat issue, or only one solution for it. A helpful hint is look for words like “this” or “the”… they imply uniqueness.
- Measureable, an assumption that something can be accurately measured, e.g. customer sat. It would be important to know what goes into measuring customer sat; e.g. is just about product use? Does
it include support? Pricing?
- Possibility, an assumption that something is possible. For example, solving customer sat can done with existing resources, budget and in a timeframe that matters for the business.
- Value, an assumption that the result will be valuable (e.g. good or bad). For example, solving the customer sat issue for a product that is about to reach end of life may not be in the best interest of the
- Audience, an assumption about the audience (e.g. the market/geography, gender, income level, and several other demographic factors). For example, the customer sat issue could be restricted only to a
customers in a certain geographic region.
- Category, as assumption that the issue/audience has been correctly categorized or subcategorized. For
example, is the real issue product features or price?
- Similarity, an assumption that what is being proposed is similar to something else. For example, the argument “we have already solved the customer sat issue for product ‘X’ using these techniques” assumes that the same ones will also be effective for the new product ‘Y’.
- Time, an assumption that things will stay the same. For example, the drivers of customer sat could be pricing one quarter, availability the next, and performance a year later.
When preparing for a project review, or listening to one, I do a mental scan for these nine types of assumptions. It’s amazing how much critical detail get uncovered.
Here’s a test.. how many assumptions can you spot in the statement “After the heist, the masked gunman escaped with the money by running toward the alley for the getaway vehicle waiting for him”.
Re-read the statement again for deeper assumptions. For example, did you assume the alley was in the back? The vehicle was a car?
Acknowledgements: I’d like to thank Dennis Matthies at Vervago for hooking me onto assumption checks!
Photo: Uta Wollf, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike 3.0 Unported License