The Fountain Institute

Q: How should I test a new idea?

Published over 1 year ago • 3 min read

Dear Reader,

Here's a question you might be asking yourself.

Q: How should I test a new idea?

Even if you have some research skills, testing is tough. It's still a growing skillset in designers.

Designers and researchers have a lot of methods that can make testing ideas easy. All you need is a bit of a mindset shift.

Let's start with an example...

So your product manager just got out of a meeting, and the board decided to drop everything and jump on this Chat GPT thing.

Here's the idea: a personal career coach using the Chat GPT API

You are given the task of owning the project. How should you proceed?

If you think like an engineer, you might start building the idea in small, agile sprints.

If you think like a product manager, you might create a roadmap to get the team building in the right order.

If you think like a product designer, you might mock the thing up and do a usability test to find problems in the implementation of the idea.

But none of these approaches make sense for this unproven idea.

This is a completely new idea, and you're not even sure that the idea is're pretty sure it will be usable since Chat GPT is usable.

You need to test if your audience will find value in the idea.

The wrong idea for your user, even if it's implemented perfectly, can still be a failure.

Finding Assumptions

Here's one way to move forward: Start with Assumptions

Hidden beneath every idea are giant assumptions about how something will go. It turns out humans are terrible at predicting the future so we fill in the gaps with assumptions.

Assumptions are little beliefs that we accept as accurate without proof. They're the little leaps of faith we take when we guess that our ideas will work.

Here's an example:
You're walking with a friend, and you notice a man passed out in the train station. He's in a dark corner so you can't really see if he's breathing.

Person 1
People that are passed out in dark corners are drunks
Result: Ignores the man

Person 2
Assumption: People that are passed out and don't seem to be breathing need immediate medical assistance
Result: Calls the paramedic

Our assumptions bridges gaps of uncertainty when there isn't much evidence.

An assumption is something we take for granted. Maybe it's an accepted rule of thumb or it's something we learned about our user a long time ago and do not question.

Every idea is full of assumptions until it’s in the hands of a customer.

Assumptions aren't easy to find, but one way that I like is mapping them with your team.

Mapping Assumptions

Assumption Maps are great ways for the team to externalize those assumptions and judge the amount of evidence behind them.

Once you have those assumptions out in the open, it's usually quite clear that you have risky assumptions which need to be tested.

Back to the example...

So you decide to facilitate an assumption mapping session.

Everyone on the team writes down a few assumptions about this Chat GPT coaching idea. One in particular feels important, and it doesn’t have a lot of evidence to support it:

Risky Assumption: Customers won't mind paying for Chat GPT's capabilities even though it's currently free

You realize that Chat GPT is free, and it's a pretty big assumption that people will pay for a coaching tool built on a free product. Is this idea desirable enough for customers to open their wallets? 🤔

Testing Assumptions

You decide that it would sink the idea if people don’t pay so you start testing the assumption.

You download the Experiment Cards and start designing experiments to test those assumptions.

What’s great about this approach is that you can prove future ideas are desirable, too. If you prove that customers are willing to pay for services that use Chat GPT, that could inspire a whole suite of products beyond the original idea.

It's a powerful way to test product ideas.

Learn More

Read more about assumption testing:

If you want to get serious about Assumption Testing, join the next cohort of Designing Product Experiments: LIVE starting March 6, 2023.

You'll learn the entire process of testing product ideas, and you'll get to try it out in a safe online environment, guided by experts.

Our courses are a great way to get your company to pay for you to learn the skills of testing & experimentation.

Until next week!

Jeff Humble
Designer & Co-Founder
The Fountain Institute

P.S. We've got some FREE events coming up in February...

The Fountain Institute

The Fountain Institute is an independent online school that teaches advanced UX & product skills.

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