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Challenging Assumptions Experiential Learning Activity

Challenging Assumptions

This deceptively simple puzzle is used to improve creative thinking skills, problem solving & innovation skills by raising awareness about benefits and limitations of using previous experience in new situations.

Used to examine and challenge thinking patterns of individuals and groups, this exercise uncovers assumptions that drive behaviour, with learning accessible for any level of participant. It is often used as a relevant ice-breaker or a challenging ‘warm-up’ activity for a problem solving or planning team, in advance of tackling ‘real-life’ problems.
This is one of the most popular learning activities developed within RSVP Design.
There are four puzzles provided per set to allow a group of up to 16 to work together in four sub-groups.


Availability: In stock

  • Buy 4 for £149.00 each and save 12%

Key Features

    Learning Focus
  • Change Management
  • Decision Making
  • Icebreaker
  • Innovation
  • Problem Solving
  • Resilience
  • Group Size
  • Ideal: 4 - 16
  • Possible: 2 - 16
  • Duration
  • 10-20 Minutes plus review

Activity Overview

Challenging Assumptions is a 20-minute, small group activity that explores some of the thinking skills that enable us to break old patterns and establish new ones and is an interesting and engaging way of helping people to distinguish the difference between useful assumptions and those that limit potential. It is also an excellent introduction to training in creative thinking, creative problem-solving and innovation skills and a challenging ‘warm-up’ activity for a problem solving or planning team, in advance of tackling ‘real-life’ problems and solutions.

Challenging Assumptions is commonly used globally in many Business Schools including CCL, IMD, Thunderbird & Ashridge, and Executive Development programmes in organisations such as Sony Music, PWC & World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Challenging Assumptions is also part of our Education Sector Package for those wishing to build learning & employability skills with students or young people. 

Learning Objectives

Individuals will explore the nature of assumptions and their limiting effect through working on this practical ‘puzzle’. It explores in particular how individuals can follow assumptions unconsciously and how sometimes it is important to challenge whether deeply held assumptions are restricting creative and innovative thinking. It can be used to ask individuals to explore strategies for challenging their own thinking processes, and also to consider sensitive and positive ways of doing this in group situations.


  • Developing creative and critical thinking skills
  • Critical problem solving skills
  • Innovation skills
  • Exploring the nature of assumptions and their potential to limit and restrict creative and innovative thinking
  • Explores how individuals follow assumptions unconsciously 
  • Understanding that sometimes it is important to challenge and change deeply held assumptions
  • Exploring strategies for challenging individual thinking processes
  • Consider sensitive and positive ways of challenging assumptions in group settings

Activity Description

Activity Contents:

  • Facilitator manual with full activity instructions and review suggestions 
  • 4x puzzles per pack 

Package Weight: 0.8kg

Like most good designs, Challenging Assumptions simplicity is its virtue – small groups of learners (3 to 6 people per puzzle is ideal, or individually) have to connect pieces of a puzzle together. Each puzzle piece is painted with a solid colour and unfinished on the reverse side. 

This simple activity lasts between 10 and 20 minutes and is an ideal way of raising the awareness of a group of learners about the pre-conceptions and assumptions we bring into new situations. This is very valuable in developing problem-solving or innovative & creative thinking processes as it highlights how we can limit our thinking and reject new possibilities if they do not fit with our existing patterns.

Learners, who are aware that it is being used on programmes with an element of creative thinking or innovation, often say things such as:

“I’m going into this with a really open mind” or

“I’m not going to make any assumptions about this”

However, these words are often uttered as they are making those very assumptions! As they realise this, the response is often laughter, surprise and a genuine recognition of the strength of some of our personal mental models.


Love it....Review by Karen
Quality of Learning Design
Value for Money
I used this activity as part of problem solving learning event and it was excellent way of getting the group to think about their initial thoughts about a business problem. It was a quick and effective way to think about how we influence others in team environment, and the need to clearly consider both communication and decisions making options. (Posted on 08/05/2017)
Great insight and self-awarenessReview by anon
Quality of Learning Design
Value for Money
The problem solving element appealed to the intellect of our R&D leaders , and was also a great opportunity for insight and raising self awareness on team work and leadership style. (Posted on 17/02/2017)
Thunderous Applause!Review by Lawrence
Quality of Learning Design
Value for Money
As an aside, we did Challenging Assumptions, Colourblind, and Workstations over the past several days to thunderous applause. (Posted on 18/07/2016)
I like it!Review by Guido Cremonesi
Quality of Learning Design
Value for Money
It works very well for the purpose of working on change and communication/feedback. I like it! Very good and innovative and well built. (Posted on 16/09/2015)
Holden Morris ConsultingReview by Anita
Quality of Learning Design
Value for Money
I am an Exec Coach, Trainer and Lecturer at post grad level. I have used products from RSVP for a number of years with clients and students.  I use RSVP products to show the students excellent training products that are adaptable and work. I uses  Challenging Assumptions and Images of Organisation regularly. Images of Organisations can be used with coaching clients, groups in training, teams etc. Challenging Assumptions makes a great ice breaker, team building activity and or Training exercise. I do use other RSVP products as well, but these are definite favourites. I can thoroughly recommend the products (Posted on 16/01/2015)
Usage with scientists & engineersReview by Heather
Quality of Learning Design
Value for Money
I particularly love using Challenging Assumptions with ‘why is the jigsaw like a PhD?’ debrief during induction to research degrees with scientists and engineers (Posted on 16/01/2015)
Consultant workReview by Adie
Quality of Learning Design
Value for Money
Works well and does what it says on the tin! (Posted on 16/01/2015)
Using with students in interview processReview by Alistair
Quality of Learning Design
Value for Money
A colleague and I have primarily been using the Challenging Assumptions. Student feedback on the activity has been largely positive and also proved to be a good ice breaker at the beginning of the interview.
It has formed the first of a two part interview and has allowed us to observe how well students work together, communication skills, problem solving and, of course, challenging assumptions, which we have linked to a work scenario. (Posted on 16/01/2015)
Challenging Assumptions is a tremendous desk-top challenge that really does help people to think differently about thingsReview by PaulBate
Quality of Learning Design
I have used it very successfully with large or small groups and in a wide variety of different ways: for leaders at all levels to think about leading in a rapidly changing world. For teams to think about their approach to problem solving or collaborative thinking. For individuals to be able to look at things in a totally different way.
RSVP Design's resources are always of the highest quality and I have been hugely impressed by the friendly, efficient and professional service I have always received. The training equipment is used very regularly at Brathay and I receive excellent feedback from my clients as to the effectiveness of the products. (Posted on 12/01/2015)

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Product Downloads

Click below to download further information about Challenging Assumptions. We also have 'Education & Teacher Specific' facilitator notes for those who wish to use Challenging Assumptions in an educational setting with students or young people.


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We provide a 12 month unconditional guarantee. If you have any problems with our materials, we will replace any defective parts, or you can return the product for a refund.

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