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Testing assumptions

Testing assumptions

Why you should use it 

  • To avoid making mistaken assumptions leading to poor strategy development. 

What it involves 

  • There are different ways to test assumptions. 
  • One approach is assumption reversal. This involves listing your assumptions about the current environment and reversing each assumption to generate new ideas. For example, if your assumption is that ‘New Zealanders will continue to volunteer in sport and recreation at the same volume’ the reversal would be that ‘volunteers numbers in sport and recreation halve’. 
  • Another approach is to list your assumptions about the current environment and test the robustness of the assumptions against a set of future scenarios. Assumptions that are robust across a range of futures are more likely to be credible and should guide planning for the future.  
  • You can also test the level of confidence you have in your assumptions being accurate. All future plans are based on assumptions. It is important to regularly test whether you believe these assumptions continue to be ‘true’. This can be done by rating your confidence from 1 (no confidence) to 10 (complete confidence). For any assumption that rates 5 or below, you need to think about changing your planning given your limited confidence in that assumption continuing to be accurate, or develop a ‘plan b’ should the assumption play out in a different way. 

What you will get out of it 

  • Helps identify blind spots and generate new insights. 

Ideal circumstances for use 

  • Works best when applied at the start of a strategy process. It can also be applied throughout the strategic period to ensure assumptions remain accurate. 
  • Works best with a diverse group of people to identify the assumptions at the core of the strategy. 


  • Can be challenging for people to identify unconscious assumptions.

Uncovering what people think is going to happen in the future – 7 Questions

7 Questions is an interview technique for gathering the strategic insights of a range of internal and external stakeholders. See the 7 questions


  • To identify strategic issues that need to be addressed in the futures work programme 
  • To stimulate individuals’ thinking in advance of a futures workshop 
  • To involve people who cannot take part in futures workshops 
  • To identify conflicting views of the future 


  • Confidential interviews. 


  • Anyone you want to involve in futures work. They can come from inside or outside the team or organisation


  • No restriction  


  • Interviews last approximately 60 minutes  
  • The interview programme is best run at the start of a futures process but can continue throughout  


  • Engagement in the futures process  

Good for 

  • Building enthusiasm for the futures process 
  • Developing understanding of the different issues and opinions to be addressed in the project 
  • Extracting deep information about underlying concerns  


  • The main risk is not including important or insightful stakeholders 

7 questions 

  1. What would you identify as the critical issue for the future?  
  2. If things went well, being optimistic but realistic, talk about what you would see as a desirable outcome.  
  3. If things went wrong, what factors would you worry about? 
  4. Looking at internal systems, how might these need to be changed to help bring about the desired outcome?  
  5. Looking back, what would you identify as the significant events which have produced the current situation?  
  6. Looking forward, what do you see as priority actions which should be carried out soon?  
  7. If all constraints were removed and you could direct what is done, what more would you wish to include? 

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