Running a Discovery Session

A Nottingham-based big data company approached me to help them deepen their knowledge of their customer’s needs to enhance the solutions they create. Although this ‘discovery first’ approach was new to them as a business they understood that it could add value to both their output and to how they are perceived by their customers.

Before planning the session, I consulted with the team to learn more about their needs, what they expected as outcomes, the project specifics we'd be exploring, and the goals - as they understood them - that their customer had. With new information in hand, I agreed a ‘discovery statement’ - the problem we’re looking to solve - with the team and set about planning a session to validate it.

As with any successful discovery workshop, an agenda of focussed, meaningful activities was essential to engage the attendees and make them feel at ease with sharing in the group setting. On this occasion there were 6 participants in the workshop; despite all the attendees being familiar with each other, sharing openly in this format could be daunting. It's my job to put the attendees at ease and get them into the mindset for an open discussion.

About Discovery Sessions

Discovery sessions are a great way to find out about your audience, uncovering how they’re working and what kind of challenges they’re facing; discovery adds a ‘why’ to the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of a solution. Finding out information early on helps you validate your decisions, keeps you on the right track, and ensures you’re spending your time and money on things which are valuable and really needed to deliver a project.

Discovery Workshop Notes

Following the session, the information I gathered was distilled into a document for the customer highlighting the key discoveries and themes and a long-form write-up for my client’s team to inform their work and allow them to drill down into specific needs and challenges faced by their customer.

Session Documentation

Comprehensive notes recorded by a member of the team, photographs of the post-it mapping sessions, plus audio recordings of the workshop

A Discovery Session Agenda

Introductions and expectations

Everyone in the room introduces themselves, briefly talks about what they do, and shares what their expectations are for the session

Establishing the discovery challenge

We reiterate the problem we’re trying to solve to validate it with the group. If we need to adjust it, we can before starting additional activities

Framing success

Discuss with the group what success for this project looks like and how the outcomes from the session might benefit them

Participant discovery

Taking UX persona questions, we frame a conversation around each participants’ needs, wants, goals, challenges, and role within their organisation

Process discovery and demonstration

The session’s focal point involves mapping the participant’s journey through their work, uncovering the challenges they face, and highlighting differences in their individual approaches. We also have the attendees demonstrate - if they can - their processes on their own systems and share any examples of documentation to give us insight into how their process informs their outputs

Wrapping up and next steps

Feeding back key points to the workshop attendees is a great way to maintain engagement and double-check you’re walking away with all the right information

“Tom not only tried to understand what makes the project tick, but what makes us tick as individuals. It was very impressive. He has the ability to make everyone feel open and honest about their project. The activity sessions Tom led were thoroughly useful and not generic tasks. They were tailored to our project needs and really helped us to understand much more than we thought we knew initially.”

Workshop Attendee, 2019

Want to find out more?

Get in touch to talk about running a discovery workshop and how it can benefit your business, projects, and customers.

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