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Assumption Testing

Assumption Testing

A method that identifies and questions the conscious and unconscious assumptions that shape policy analysis.

On this page:

Why you should use it
What it involves
What you will get out of it
Ideal circumstances for use
Limitations
References, guides and key readings

Why you should use it

  • To avoid making mistaken assumptions leading to poor policy advice.

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 ‘the use of technology enables collaborative ways of working’ the reversal would be that ‘the use of technology hinders collaborative ways of working’.
  • 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. 

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 policy process. It can be applied to most policy analysis.
  • Works best with a diverse group of people to identify the assumptons at the core of the policy analysis.

Limitations

  • Can be challenging for people to identify unconscious assumptions.

References, Guides and Key Readings

Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ Strategic Foresight Guide (pages 26-27).

Policy Horizon Canada’s Foresight Training Materials.

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 26 November 2019

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