Assume or Understand

Last night I had the pleasure of attending my first Skillshare class. It’s a startup I’ve admired and after going to their springbreak party and meeting so many great people I decided I was way past time to start taking and teaching classes. Kristina Drury was teaching Design thinking techniques for non-profits & entrepreneurs and I jumped on it.

I got a ton of value out of that class, but the reason I’m opening today’s morning warmup with it is this. The group of ~25 people broke into teams of 5 for different exercises and I lucked out to be on a team with some very sharp women. Even with the combined intelligence of my teammates, Kristina was able to come over to us and point out places where our nascent design was in danger. We were making assumptions.

The word assume always makes me laugh because I remember it being the first time I heard an adult say the word ‘ass’ (and my sense of humor has never matured). But last night it stayed with me and I was still thinking about it in the shower this morning. The lesson on assumptions in design last night was this; own the fact that you have assumptions and then accept that you have to verify them. If you don’t you will carry them thru the design and your end product will not be what your user actually needs.

Useful tidbit in client work right? Don’t assume you know your target constituents until you actually get off your ‘ass’ (ha!) and go get to know them. But as awesome and valuable as that insight is, it’s not the reason it stayed with me in the shower.

What other assumptions do you carry and refuse to own? Democrats are irresponsible morons? Republicans are unfeeling bigoted robots? Your boss is a jerk (that might be verifiable)?

What are the things you argue with people on Facebook about but have never verified? When you watch a news report that is slanted to your personal view (left or right) and get all fired up, are you actually incapable of speaking to someone who holds the opposite viewpoint (because they must be so stupid)?

I’m dissapointed that in many areas we seem to have lost the ability for intelligent debate, meaning in this case debate we enter into with the intention of learning from the other party. If we can agree that professionally we must strive to understand others in order to make our work the best it can be, why can’t we agree that we should strive to understand others in order to make our lives the best they can be?

And to be clear, understand does not equal agree and certainly does not equal endorse or approve. It only means to understand.


This is part of my morning warm up series, so I’d appreciate any feedback, thanks.

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