My Approach: Surfacing Assumptions

The third stage of the Design Thinking Process calls for Ideation, that is, identifying new solutions to the problems surfaced in the previous stage in the process. Before proceeding to the next stage of Prototyping, however, the designer needs to examine the assumptions underlying each of the proposed solutions. One solution can be founded on many assumptions, and any one of those assumptions, if proven false, could invalidate a proposed solution, or at the very least, point the way to rethinking a solution. One potential challenge, however, is that there can be many different assumptions built into a proposed solution—so many that it’s impossible to test them all. The key is to identify the assumptions that are most critical to the success of the solution—the assumptions that have the potential to render a proposed solution unworkable.

To take a single example from my own work, I had discovered that, quite reasonably, people wanted more public recognition of their successes. As part of one of my solutions, I included public recognition via Yammer, but recognized that I was merely assuming that recognition via Yammer would be valued. In prototype testing, though, I received mixed results on that proposition, and therefore had to rethink that part of my solution.

I had prototyped that part of my solution as a single item, to determine if it would work—and the great thing about prototyping is that in this case, the feedback opened the door to other ideas that would achieve the desired result.

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