Identifying Assumptions

Identifying Assumptions is the process of uncovering and articulating the implicit beliefs or hypotheses that underpin the prioritised solutions that we are looking to build.


The effectiveness of our solution ideas is often taken for granted and can introduce significant risk and uncertainty if left unvalidated. By identifying the underlying assumptions we can focus our validation efforts on the most critical areas. This helps teams to reduce risk, make more informed decisions, and ensure that their product strategies are based on verified information and insights.


Industry Context

Most software fails to deliver on the expected value. Solution ideas are very intoxicating and we jump to how much users will love it. We're experts and we assume that we know what our customers want but unfortunately the data doesn't support this. New features require customers to change their behaviour and this is impossible to predict.

ZeroBlockers Context

Teams are accountable for outcomes, not just outputs. This means that they need to be able to generate solutions that customers really want because, unless customers want it, it won't achieve the desired outcomes.


PracticeDescriptionBenefitsConsiderationsBest Suited For
Assumption Risk MappingA structured approach to identify, categorise, and prioritise assumptions based on their impact and certainty based on the 4 product risk categories.
  • Provides a clear framework for tackling assumptions.
  • Helps prioritise validation efforts based on risk.
  • Requires thorough understanding of the project scope and objectives.
  • Can be time-consuming to categorise and prioritise effectively.
Early-stage product development where clear risks and unknowns exist.
Pre-mortemAn exercise where the team imagines a future where the project has failed, to identify potential risks and assumptions.
  • Encourages proactive identification of risks and assumptions.
  • Can uncover unforeseen challenges and areas of concern.
  • Relies on the team's ability to anticipate potential issues.
  • May generate anxiety or negative focus among team members.
Projects at an early stage to anticipate and mitigate potential risks.

Other Methods

PracticeDescriptionZeroBlockers Opinion
Five WhysA technique used to explore the underlying cause-and-effect relationship behind a particular assumption.Great technique for uncovering the underlying cause of a problem, particularly during research with customers. However there is a risk when performing 5 why's internally as there are often assumptions made about the customer's needs and motivations.
Hypothesis TestingFormulating assumptions as testable hypotheses and designing experiments to validate them.In order to create a hypothesis you need to understand the assumptions that underpin it. This is a great method for validating assumptions but not for identifying them.
Expert InterviewsGather insights and perspectives from subject matter experts relevant to your assumptions.We need to move quickly as a team. Expert interviews can take a long time to set up and conduct which creates a blocker to getting to the validation stage.


  • Assumption Blindness: Failing to recognise and acknowledge the assumptions that underpin a solution.
  • Silos of Understanding: Failing to share and discuss assumptions across the team, leading to misalignment and missed opportunities for validation.
  • Overconfidence in Assumptions: Assuming that no validation is needed and proceeding based on untested beliefs.

Case Studies

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