Tackling assumptions to achieve Product / Market fit.

We all know the saying about assumptions. In this post, CreateFuture Strategy Lead Scott Hodgskin shares an approach to make sure they don’t make a… fool out of you or me.

Any great product you see in the market today has what the Product Design community call ‘Product/Market Fit’.

I tend to think of Product/Market Fit as the sum of three parts: The user needs it, we can make, market, launch and support it, and finally, the product will turn a profit.

We can summarise this into three key areas: Desirability, Feasibility and Viability. If your idea has all three of these ticked - you’re onto a winner.

Assumption-Mapping-85.png

However there’s a lot of work needed to confidently tick these boxes, and when a product is still an idea, you’ll inevitably be making a number of assumptions about the desirability, feasibility and viability of your product.

To understand why these areas are individually important, and the importance of surfacing and tackling assumptions early in the design process, we can take a look at a great idea that was lacking in one of these areas: Google Glass. 

What are you looking at?

Everyone will remember Google Glass. It was one of the coolest innovations to come out of Silicon Valley in the 2010s; however, Google closed the curtains on its wearable tech after just two years, in 2015. Why? A lack of Product/Market Fit. 

Google Glass was clearly feasible, as it shipped tens of thousands of units. But, just because you can build something, doesn’t mean you should

The largest hurdle was privacy - people did not like the idea of being recorded without their permission, at one point leading to someone being physically assaulted in a bar, as they believed they were being filmed on the user’s Glass.

bfe11d272a55153bbb578bec0a2572c0.jpg

If we ran a discovery workshop on Google Glass before the product was built, we may have assumed people would have an issue with being filmed. Knowing this was an assumption we were making, we could have decided to run an experiment to validate whether or not it was true. That experiment would have allowed us to design for this Desirability problem, rather than discover it after the product was built and shipped to real users.

Know your Truths

A technique that we like to use to understand what things we are all assuming is Assumption Mapping. This is where we ask ourselves the difficult questions we’ve been avoiding, as they’re likely to make us question if our idea is really something that is going to work. 

Take a look at our Create Future Toolkit card for How to Run Assumption Mapping:

We recently ran this technique with one of our clients, Proactis, to help them see if their Business Model for a new offering will stand-up to scrutiny.

We explored each of the three areas of Product/Market Fit, by asking ourselves questions to probe the assumptions we are all making; questions like:

Desirability: ‘What’s the problem we are solving for our User?’

Feasibility: ‘What’s our biggest Technical Challenge?’

Viability: Why will our Users buy our Product over the Competition?

We wrote the answers onto coloured post-its (a different colour for each Desirability, Feasibility and Viability comments), and mapped the answers to these questions on a 2-by-2 matrix. The axes we used were ‘Important or Unimportant’, ‘Known or Unknown’.

Assumption-Mapping-2-183.png

Once we’ve asked all our questions, and mapped all our answers, we then take a look at the top-right quadrant. This is where ‘Important’ and ‘Unknown’ bisect. So, all of these assumptions are super-important for us to know, and we really don’t know if they are true or not. 

You can now start to plan experiments, research and other activities to move these assumptions from unknown to known.

For our workshop objective - creating and validating the Business Model, we took this one step further and re-mapped our assumptions to a Business Model Canvas. This then drove us to create a draft Business Model, Product Tour and a set of Interview Questions, which we will test with users to gain feedback. 

Reprogram your subconscious

It’s so easy to fall in love with your ideas, and forget what you’re assuming to be true. Having a technique in your toolbox that allows you to take a deep breath, step back, and tease our all of those things you’ve taken for granted removes the emotion, and reprograms your subconscious to be conscious.  If you’re gonna be a fool, surely it’s better to do it consciously - right?

For more info on how to use Assumption Mapping, or if you’re familiar with the technique already and want to pair it with the Business Model Canvas, get in touch.

Don’t forget to check out and download our Toolkit card, so you can run your own Assumption Mapping workshop.

Scott Hodgskin