Discovery-phase in-design-thinking
Analysis & Design

How can the discovery stage be powered by design thinking workshops?

date: 17 January 2023
reading time: 6 min

Have you ever wondered if there is a way to make the discovery phase engaging for all participants and stakeholders? Thanks to design thinking workshops, you can bring out innovative ideas and increase competitive advantage of your business by discovering unique values for your customers.

In this article, we write about:

  • The importance of the discovery phase in the project
  • The effective and time-saving design thinking method
  • 5 steps & benefits of design thinking workshops

It’s time to set off on a remarkable journey – a new project is coming, and it’s time to activate the discovery phase to gather crucial information. Your team can do it the traditional way – by sitting at the table, discussing options and exchanging tons of emails for weeks.

Luckily, there is another way. The design thinking method is a proven, more engaging and efficient way to gather and analyse crucial business information.

Discovery phase: the effective way to start

If you want your project to turn out successful, you need to start properly. The discovery phase is the beginning part of the process of creating business strategies or new solutions.

It enables a project team to gather all the essential information to deeply understand business context and make better, data-driven decisions. Project managers, developers, business analysts, UX/ UI designers and other specialists involved can come together to work on a specific goal.

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You can try design thinking workshops if you want to, e.g.:

  • launch a new product or service on the market,
  • increase sales,
  • discover or create a unique value for your product or service,
  • create a new value for your product or a differentiator on the market,
  • create a new company development strategy,
  • increase customer experience,
  • improve team communication,
  • motivate and engage employees.

The discovery phase often contains a few crucial elements the whole team needs to take into account to gather important information and business insights:

Sounds like extremely time-consuming work? Reporting every step to stakeholders and making sure everything is clear and set? Exchanging tons of emails and carrying on endless discussions with different specialists in the process? It could be like that if you chose the old-fashioned way. We will investigate the modern, design thinking approach.

What is design thinking?

Firstly, let’s clarify the method we want to dive into. Gartner Glossary has an incredibly complex definition of the design thinking process:

Design thinking is a multidisciplinary process that builds solutions for complex, intractable problems in a technically feasible, commercially sustainable and emotionally meaningful way. Design thinkers balance intuitive originality (the hallmarks of great designers) with analytic mastery (the hallmarks of business leaders and engineers) to create business-focused outcomes that generate transformative, innovative and strategic change.

In short, using design thinking in the discovery phase is simply analysing the project’s context to successfully discover the right solution. By adopting the method, it is easier to start a new project equipped with a well-defined scope and crucial inside knowledge for the team.

Benefits of design thinking workshops

Teams that use the design thinking method to go through the discovery phase point to business and time efficiency of the process in the first place. Indeed, it takes only a few days to get the answers to the essential business questions.

Here are the most significant benefits of using design thinking in the discovery phase:

Time compressed

The time from idea to solution takes, depending on how complex the problem is, from a few days to several days.

Fully focused and cooperative team

Workshops include the ‘no phones’ rule so that every single attendee can get 100% involved in the whole project. Everyone brings unique value, which increases satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment.

All knowledge available

Workshops gather essential specialists and stakeholders together to avoid countless meetings and ensure good communication flow. They can effectively exchange knowledge, experience, and competencies at the same time.

Engaging tools

Engagement is created by a deep phase of empathising with users/customers by looking at the challenge through their eyes. The tools are simple, but their context triggers the participants’ creativity and need to have fun, which translates into maximum involvement.

Challenge identification

Potential challenges, risks and opportunities are identified, which is crucial in resolving complex problems or creating new products.

Vision clarified

Immediate testing of solutions and evaluation of ideas is an essential part of the process. As a result, participants have a complete set of information and a clear idea to implement.

Skills for the future challenges

Effective problem-solving skills and ways to elaborate ideas will benefit in future challenges. Team members can become more open and empathetic towards people, as the design thinking method teaches expressing opinions without judging or criticising.

5 steps of design thinking workshops

After discovering the crucial benefits, let’s see how design thinking workshops are supposed to run. Attendees of design workshops do it through 5 steps and an implementation phase at the end:

Step 1: Empathise (understand)

Discovering and fully understanding client’s actual problems, challenges and needs.

Methods to use: empathy maps, user stories, role-playing, interviews, diaries, observations, personas, mood boards.

Step 2: Define

Defining the main challenge or problem that needs solution by putting as many details to it as needed.

Methods to use: writing a detailed problem statement, discussion, jobs-to-be-done, pains and gains, “How might we” statement.

Step 3: Ideate

Creating and sharing ideas, discussions and devising possible solutions.

Methods to use: brainstorming, reverse brainstorming (focusing on problem causes), rapid ideation, discussing best and worst ideas, SCAMPER, creative pyramid, and analogies.

Step 4: Prototype

Building sketches of prototypes – a physical representation of ideas and solutions. If it involves customer journey, it could be even examples of screens or interfaces.

Step 5: Testing ideas

Going through ideas and solutions, discussing them and eliminating mistakes. It’s also time to summarise the workshop findings and most valuable insights.

After these 5 crucial steps, the team can debrief and clarify next steps, which includes, e.g., an implementation plan, feedback on the workshop process itself, brief retrospective, creating wireframes, building more detailed prototypes or carrying on testing on real users.

Use a successful & proven method

At Future Processing, we have been using design workshops broadly for many different projects, and it turned out to be a great way to gather essential business insights. As our experience shows, the form and methods used during design thinking workshops bring significant profits for all specialists involved, the whole organisation, its future plans and profits.

The discovery phase is a perfect moment to hit each individual case right at its core to really hear what our customers are concerned about and then find a solution to their problems in an unusual way. The result is solutions that are true differentiators in the market.

Our customers’ feedback and final effects prove the effectiveness of the method:

Future Processing has experience of lots of different clients with different technical issues and solutions, so it is very helpful for us to tap into their expertise and get ideas that we sometimes hadn’t even thought of. As well as helping with the architecting and design of the new applications, they have also given us advice on other projects.
Mike Poole
IT Business Systems Manager, Steamship Mutual
We were looking for rapid product innovation. We engaged in initial discussions which led to Future Processing formulating their recommendations. There was a series of meetings and short workshops at the beginning. We liked their ideas, and so the project kicked off with a few months’ long transition from our previous software supplier.
Head of Digital Operations
A Temporary Staffing Company
What we like most is the quality of development and well-tested product. Apart from that we always get good advice on implementation and design of the product. Future Processing provided us with an expert level of skills across the project and was proactive in working out the details and suggesting innovative solutions and enhancements.
Erik Futtrup
Director of Development, Trapeze Group Europe


Joanna Skowrońska is a designer with 12 years of experience.

In her own words: “Of course it’s nice to have seniority in skills, but what I like about myself is having a beginner’s mind, so I feel that Curiosity is my true nature. I have a strong interest in the people I meet, with all the acceptance of the other person and their needs. I really listen and hear, and as a result, I go outside the box in finding solutions.

She strongly believes that UX is a perfect blend of business, users and the needs of both. She likes the moment when business measures meet user values.

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