Assumption Smashing

A useful technique of generating ideas is to list the assumptions of the problem, and then explore what happens as you drop each of these assumptions individually or in combination.

For example, I used to work in the Customer Service division of a software company.

When customers purchase software, they are encouraged to purchase support agreements for a cost of 15% of the software value. The revenue from this maintenance funds the support personnel who answer telephones.

The assumptions of this situation are:

Customers purchase maintenance agreements

Customers pay 15% of the software's worth for support

Support is a product and should therefore be sold

The software vendor provides helpful, timely support

Now think about the situations as each attribute is dropped.

What happens if support is free? - Maybe the software price should be increased and the support given away, creating the impression of free support. Don't support the product - Don't offer support. The vendor doesn't have to support it, so doesn't have to employ support staff. If anyone rings for help, tell them to buzz off! This could lead to customers forming their own support groups (user groups) or turning to other areas such as the Internet, bulletin boards, newsletters, independent support specialists and so on.

Even more assumptions could be dropped. What if the vendor gave away the software. You are most likely reading this file with Netscape Naviagor or Microsoft Explorer. Did you buy that software? How do you think Netscape makes money if most people don't pay for the browser?

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