Hypotheses and Assumptions in Business

Within certain segments of academia (the natural sciences and some niches within the social sciences), creating hypotheses is a required part of the job. A hypothesis is (definition). You have the null, the directional and the causal hypotheses to choose from. The hypothesis must be a declarative statement. Thank the academic scheduling gods that I am teaching media research. Otherwise I wouldn’t have this insight into hypothesis creation. #QualitativeResearchForTheWin

Ries in The Lean Start Up (which is required reading for the entrepreneurship class I am bootstrapping and creating this semester) called hypotheses assumptions or guesses. The guesses about the startup or innovation could center around the audience (who do you assume will purchase or be interested in the product), the topic (is this viable? who else is in this same domain?), and execution (is the concept we want to deploy appropriate?). 

In class, each student had to jot down several assumptions that they had about their startup/side hustle. Here are a few that I can share with you:

Assumption: People in the city of Atlanta are not interested in having someone plan romantic outings for them. 

Assumption: People who are in charge of advertising dollars have a clear understanding of how media works. 

For myself, my own guesses about The Tenured Entrepreneur are the following:

 Assumption: Academics are not interested in learning more about starting their own businesses because they believe that business is evil/corporate/neoliberal/too much for them to do.

Assumption: People in academia wouldn’t pay for resources and guides on this topic. 

Assumption: Academics would look down on me for doing this. 

Assumptions like hypotheses must be tested. How could these assumptions be tested? As a class, we brainstormed ideas for testing. Some easy wins for testing were surveys, formal interviews, and focus groups. Other ideas were content analyses, creating a landing page to gauge interest and excitement (as well as capture email addresses), participant observation, and informal interviews. (As I told my students, all those research methods you thought were ridiculous bunk come back into play when doing research on your ideas. They begrudingly agreed.)

I issued a challenge to my class after they spent a portion of the class period cycling through their fears and assumptions: What guesses/assumptions/hypotheses could they test in the next two days? The next week? The next three weeks? I will see what they come up with in the next few days. As for me, I am testing the second assumption with the Kindle launch of my guide and I am doing informal and formal interviews with Twitter friends, in-real-life colleagues, and trusted academics about the concept. 

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