How to Test Your Biggest Assumptions with Tash Keuneman

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On Wednesday 26th May 2021 resident Growth Expert Daniel Lohrmann from ikaros facilitated an AMA with Tash Keuneman, the Head of Design at Shippit who has extensive experience in UX design and rapid experimentation from working at innovative companies like Atlassian, Intuit, Data61 and now Shippit. She’s passionate about solving complex customer problems and businesses leaving a positive impact on the environment and our broader community.

Awareness of your own assumptions

Tash began the talk by reminding us that when forming a hypothesis on how our solution would solve a customer problem – all of us have assumptions. It is important to write down these assumptions as a team. What would have to be true for the project to be successful? Let’s test it through an experiment. In order to hold yourself accountable, write the metrics of success before you start your experiment. You’ll get a sense of this over time. If your test fails, it’s either the idea, or the experiment itself that’s wrong, so run another series of experiments until you have complete confidence in your data. 

Most of all, we should be ready to accept and pivot accordingly if our assumptions are proven wrong, because that’s more intellectually honest than going straight to build.

How to test with limited resources?

Having worked at companies big and small, Tash recognises that startups and small businesses have very limited resources to test their hypotheses. From personal experience, she recommended a method similar to Card Sorting to test customers’ appetite to an idea without introducing bias. Get 10 – 15 users that are representative of your target market. 

Firstly, write all the current solutions to a customer problem on index cards. You’d want about 15+. Include your idea in there. Put these in front of a user, with some blank cards on the side. Have some headings around what would work, what wouldn’t work and what they wouldn’t try. Don’t draw attention to your ideas, just allow them to sort it out into piles and then invite them to add any additional concepts to the exercise. 

From these conversations, we could also observe nuances and identify new pain points we haven’t thought of. She emphasised that this method is fast and cost-effective for early stage startups to avoid diving right into expensive prototypes.

From the round table discussion, Tash also recommended testing a user’s appetite for an unbuilt product or service by testing with something small, like a spreadsheet for a budgeting app, or a PDF contract for a service that doesn’t exist yet. 

Creating a great culture for experimentation

Finally, we talked about the role of company culture in encouraging rapid experimentation as well as learning from failures and invalidated hypotheses. Tash said that having every staff member trained in design thinking proved effective at Intuit. At multiple companies, setting up research and bringing customer artefacts to life changed the way teams thought about what they built. Lastly, a company should celebrate running experiments, regardless of whether they succeed or fail. 

Tash ended the talk by recommending to the group a great book on experimentation and an article on demos and how it can be a great tool for founders and startup leaders. 

If you missed out on the May Growth AMA session but want to connect and ask further questions to Tash, you can reach out to her via her Linkedin or Twitter.

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