Assumption Dumption

WHAT | WHY | HOW

WHAT IS IT: Assumption Dumption is an important technique where participants state their assumptions about a situation or a problem. Then they try to reverse the assumptions to see if new opportunities are revealed. By reversing assumptions, individuals and teams are encouraged to explore fresh perspectives on ideas, values and beliefs. Not unlike standing on one’s head, this activity should generate rich discussion that helps team members to understand each other’s point of view and explore the origins of those beliefs. In turn, this “unpacking” of assumptions helps the team dive more deeply into the problem to discover its true source. 

Assumption Dumption [1] is a unique method for identifying possible design research areas. 

WHY USE IT: 

  • As a brainstorming technique,

  • To surface and make unstated beliefs explicit.

  • To develop shared understanding across diverse groups.

  • To explore the problems “behind” the problem.

  • To identify opportunities for further research.

 

HOW TO:​ 

  • Begin with stating an assumption about a general situation, need or problem. With post-it notes and sharpie markers, invite each participant to state additional assumptions about the proposed situation, need or problem.

  • Using a whiteboard or large sheet paper, have each participant present and then place their assumption (post-it note) on the surface. Write assumptions in large print and keep them visible.

  • Allow enough time (minimum 15-30) to discuss, cluster or categorize into greater themes. 

  • From the themes or categories created, in groups reverse or 'dump' on the posted assumptions to reveal other assumptions, beliefs or claims. NOTE: Be sensitive to emotions that can be attached to beliefs when “unpacking” assumptions. As in brainstorming, participants should withhold judgment when assumptions are shared.

  • Write 'dumped' assumptions in large print and keep them visible.

  • Keep track of ideas and concepts that emerge when reversing an assumption – they might lead to possible solutions later in the process.

  • Propose an action plan that involves primary or secondary research to investigate all assumptions.

[1] “Assumption Dumption" is a technique conceived by Professor Moura Quayle.