Here’s A Great Workshop Exercise To Help Your Leadership Team Challenge Their Beliefs / Assumptions

How to think what no one else thinks

How do you think what no one else thinks? Innovators come to their insights in various ways, one is by questioning deeply held beliefs / assumptions inside companies and industries about what drives success.

You see, innovation is as much about attitude and perspective as it is about process. By challenging the status quo innovators gain the necessary perspective to be able to see things anew.

Of course, challenging the status quo is not something that is widely practiced inside established business; rather it’s punished. But those few who do want to see things anew, can challenge the heck out of their business and industry in a very simple way.

I’ve recently been asked to recommend a good workshop exercise for a leadership team to help them challenge their beliefs / assumptions. The oldest trick in the book, very simple…

Reverse Assumptions

First ask: what are the widespread, hackneyed beliefs that govern the way people think about and do business in this space?


  1. State your challenge, which in this case is identify the assumptions that seem to influence the way insiders think about the industry, segment, or category;
  2. List your assumptions;
  3. Challenge assumptions (ask why?);
  4. Reverse each assumption (write the opposite);
  5. Record differing viewpoints that might prove useful;
  6. Ask how to accomplish each reversal, list as many useful viewpoints and ideas as you can (ask what if? and why not?).

The point here is to widen perspective and break cliches.

To take it a step further, use the business model canvas to question each piece of that puzzle and then reverse them. See this graphic from McKinsey:

Reframing Beliefs Infographic mckinsey

Kill A Stupid Rule

As an added bonus, I recommend Lisa Bodell’s useful Kill A Stupid Rule technique; which us insurgents do without thinking. Watch how it works below:

Bottom line: Every assumption is an innovation opportunity; identify and challenge them.

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