Don’t Assume Your Way to Failure: Testing Assumptions

Don’t Assume Your Way to Failure: Testing Assumptions



Assumptions – We’ve all made them from time to time, and sometimes they can be harmful. Nowhere is this truer than in developing a business. When it comes to taking an idea to prototype, and then from prototype to product, there is a key ingredient to success that is all too often overlooked: assumption testing. In a nutshell, assumption testing is the systematic and objective analysis of the idea and the business model to determine where guesses and assumptions are being made.

The key to success is to take the assumptions and determine how to turn them into actionable, answerable hypotheses. By taking this step, an entrepreneur can save themselves a lot of stress, time and money.

More than anything, assumption testing requires both you and your team to be painfully honest and objective – you get exactly as much out of this exercise as you are willing to put into it.

Divide the assumptions into distinct aspects – this will make your approach much more efficient and effective. Every prompt should also be followed by, “And how can this be measured and verified?”

Problem/Solution Assumptions: 

a) Is the problem that you are solving significant enough to warrant a business?

b) Is the problem significant enough that somebody would be willing to pay for it?

c) What alternative solutions exist (or have existed) which are not sufficient?

d) Does your solution present a clear differentiating factor?

Market Assumptions:

a) Is your target market interested in a solution that you are offering?

b) Are your market demographics able to make a purchasing decision? (i.e., Don’t market to the cashier if you need the store manager to make the decision, etc.)

c) Why has the competition not done what you are doing? (Sometimes there’s a very good reason and you need to find out why.)

d) Does your target market currently have the buying power to make the relationship economically feasible? (Every business has a customer, make sure that your target customers actually have cash in the bank!)

The above is by no means an exhaustive list, it is provided as an example for getting started. Every business/idea has its own unique characteristics, but one thing that isn’t unique is the requirement to become objective and come to a better understanding of where you could be deluding yourself. I’ve always thought that every successful entrepreneur has to have a bit of “functional delusion,” just make sure that you’ve performed these reality checks before getting your hands dirty.

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Giovanni Cioli

About the author: Maxim Wheatley

Maxim Wheatley is a recent graduate of Georgetown University, having studied Cognitive Science & Psychology. He is currently working to become an iOS development guru. His interests center around startups and new ventures, he has already been involved in three different startups, and started two small businesses before he graduated college. Currently based in Washington, DC, Maxim is always interested in talking about ideas and opportunities wherever they might be.

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