Discovery Activities

“I want to run a discovery session with my team, but I don’t have any ideas for activities!” It’s a common concern. A discovery session, intended to learn from the client or key stakeholders, can feel overwhelmingly open ended. Try some of these sample activities, and see if any feel right for accomplishing your discovery session’s goals:

Activity: A Day in the Life
Goal: Create a persona, prepare for user research

“A Day in the Life” is a group activity, where the team first individually records a step-by-step of their own day, and then comes together to define a step-by-step of their target user’s day. By recording their own days first, people will begin to focus on what actually happens during the day, rather than what they want their users to do. However, since this is being created without an actual user or users present, it’s important that someone record all questions that come out of the activity. These questions will frame later user research.

Activity: Partners, Squared (works best with 8-16 people)
Goal: Come to agreement on a vision with buy-in from the whole team

Divide the group into pairs of two. Each pair has roughly 5 minutes to come up with a plan (this could be a product design, or any other decision). After the 5 minute session, each pair combines with another pair (4 people), to pitch their idea and then either choose one, combine the two, or come up with something new that all 4 agree on. After 5 minutes, the 4-person group pairs with another 4-person group and repeats the process. This should continue until the entire group has come together and is pitching 2 ideas, and is ready to either combine or choose from the ideas.

Activity: Sticky Note Flow
Goal: Create a user flow out of a large amount of functionality

In this activity, the team begins by listing out every piece of functionality they can dream of wanting. Each functionality gets written down on a sticky note, regardless of how easy or difficult it will be to build, or even if some team members thinks it’s valuable and others disagree. When all functionality is written down, the group will work together to group them, identifying functionality that is either very similar, or functionality that works hand in hand with other functionality. Then the team will work together to put the functionality into chronological order. When this is complete, the team is set up to record a few options for the user’s journey.

Bonus: Make a list of the business goals and user’s goals, and identify what functionality meets each goal. If there are goals leftover at the end, find out why.

Activity: Ben and Jerry’s Stack
Goal: Create a shared vocabulary and mission statement.

This activity is adapted from Kristina Halvorson’s Messaging Period, as described in her UIE15 talk. First, ask the group to spend 3-5 minutes listing out every adjective they can think of that describes the company as it *ideally* is. Then bring the group together, put all of the words up on a board where everyone can can see them, and give them a few minutes to each write a few sentences explaining what the company does, using some of the words in front of them. Have the team share some of their sentences, and together discuss (and edit) which ones best identify the company they want to be.

Next, have the team work together to develop one “mission statement”: a sentence that explains who the company is, what they do, and why. This sentence is the one that all future decisions can be held against. If a decision does not support the mission statement, it’s the wrong decision. Lastly, return to the descriptive sentences, select 3 or 4 of them, and edit them to truly support the mission statement.

Looking for more examples? Try the Gamestorm website for ideas.


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