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The Importance of Challenging Assumptions with Innovation Teams

image of buffet

Our mistakes can be our greatest teachers.

Starting my career at Clorox after moving from France, I made a cultural faux pas at a buffet-style luncheon.

Accustomed to a more relaxed approach to lines in France, I inadvertently jumped ahead to serve myself, realizing later the protocol of waiting in line.

This taught me the importance of observing before acting and recognizing our assumptions.

Now, working with innovation teams, I often kick off the project with a "Wall of Assumptions," where we list our assumptions and beliefs around our project.

It can include assumptions like "we need to sell our products" or "we need to ship our products," which may seem obvious to a team at the time. 

However, writing the obvious helps challenge those assumptions. Alternative business models have found ways to say no to these questions, for example, using a Freemium model (where most people use an app for free, a few pay, and that provides enough revenue) or by offering the ability to get immediate access as Netflix has pivoted to after starting with shipping DVDs.

Companies like Airbnb and Uber created their whole businesses by challenging conventional thinking at the time and driving major innovation.

Years ago, strangers opening their homes or entering unfamiliar cars seemed unimaginable, yet these businesses thrive by defying such expectations.

What would you include on your Wall of Assumptions, and which assumptions might you want to challenge to create innovation for your business, community, or personal life? 


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