- To make unstated beliefs explicit.
- To develop shared understanding across diverse groups.
- To explore the problems “behind” the problem.
- To identify opportunities for further research.
In this simple exercise, participants state their assumptions about a situation or the problem. Then they try to reverse the assumptions to see if new opportunities are revealed.
Reversing assumptions gives teams a fresh perspective on ideas, values and beliefs, not unlike standing on one’s head!
This activity also tends to 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.
- As in brainstorming, participants should withhold judgment when assumptions are shared.
- Be sensitive to emotions that can be attached to beliefs when “unpacking” assumptions.
- One dumped assumption may reveal others to be explored.
- Write 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.