Assumption Surfacing

More than any other situation Change is about cooperation and collaboration. No matter if your company is in serious trouble or just wants to find a new way to line itself up – it always needs people to initiate, moderate, steer, coordinate and live that Change.

So what? The problem is that often people simply don´t know how to cooperate. Of course people cooperate on a daily base, but this is mostly routine, it´s like a form of vegetative state. Change causes different needs and different needs urges people to modify their behavior.

Over years I have collected several “Creativity Techniques” to support Cooperation between people – not only in times of Change. It is always better to be prepared than surprised…

What are Creativity Techniques?
Creativity techniques are heuristic methods to facilitate creativity in a person or a group of people. They are most often used in creative problem solving.

Generally, most creativity techniques use associations between the goal (or the problem), the current state (which may be an imperfect solution to the problem), and some stimulus (possibly selected randomly). There is an analogy between many creativity techniques and methods of evolutionary computation.

In problem-solving contexts, the random word creativity technique is perhaps the simplest such method. A person confronted with a problem is presented with a randomly generated word, in the hopes of a solution arising from any associations between the word and the problem. A random image, sound, or article can be used instead of a random word as a kind of creativity goad or provocation.

Assumption Surfacing

  • The aim of this technique is to make underlying assumptions more visible.
  • Identify a particular choice you have made, and ask yourself why you feel it is the best choice – i.e. what assumptions guide this choice.
  • List the assumptions, and beside each write a counter-assumption – not necessarily its negation, but the opposite to the issue it represents.
  • Work down the list and delete ineffective assumption/counter-assumption pairs i.e. where it would make little difference to your choice whether the assumption or the counter-assumption were actually the case.
  • Assess each of the remaining assumptions in terms of high or low potential impact (how critical is its truth to justifying your pattern of behaviour?) and high or low plausibility (how confident are you that it is, in fact, true?).
  • Plot the assumptions on a 2×2 matrix (high/low impact on one axis, high/low plausibility on the other).
High medium Most serious
Low Least serious medium

High impact/high plausibility assumptions are clearly the most crucial, but high impact/low plausibility assumptions need to be taken seriously, in case they turn out to be true, so check them out if you can.

The assumptions in the ‘high impact’ cells are those that the user sees as largely justifying their actions. Are they over-estimating them? What could change these assumptions? What benefits would there be and for whom?

The assumptions in the ‘low impact’ cells are seen as less critical, but it might be worth checking this out – are they being under-estimated?

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