The Key Assumptions Check is a simple way to begin an intelligence analysis or research project. Despite its simplicity, it is also extremely powerful, because it allows us to question the underlying assumptions that we make influencing our decisions and thought processes.
Because of confirmation bias, we often exclude information from our worldview or from a decision that does not support a decision, while including information that does support her preconceptions.
Key Assumptions Check
The steps to performing a Key Assumptions Check are as follows:
- Come up with a “face valid” analysis. This is a final answer that you will work backwards to get to your assumptions
- List all the stated and unstated assumptions that must be true for this analysis to be valid. This may take some brainstorming; having other people to help you with this can be useful
- Consider alternatives. Ask what would need to be possible for your assumptions to be invalid. Does any of this make sense?
- Remove any assumptions that are not 100% necessarily for your analysis to be true.
This process will allow you to examine your spoken and unspoken assumptions. If you find that many of your assumptions are not relevant to your face-valid analysis, or the assumptions are in fact not supported by existing data, then you would be wise to change your analysis.
A Key Assumptions Check can be an important element in an Analysis of Competing Hypothesis (ACH)
A slightly different take on this technique is called the Premortem Analysis. In theory, the difference between this technique and the key assumption check is that the premortem analysis involves the entire scenario being incorrect, while the Key Assumptions Check looks just at the assumptions underpinning your analysis. In practice, there is no difference – both techniques are used in order to ensure that you have not fallen into analytical traps.