Discovery Workshop


Getting buy-in from senior stakeholders is crucial in any project. With a discovery workshop you can achieve that early on, by having them be part of the decision making at the very start.

What you'll need

  • Stakeholders
  • On-the-ground employees
  • Users if they’re available
  • A way of documenting the workshop
  • Exercise materials

If you’re starting a new project, you need to gather as much research and insight from the client as possible. A discovery workshop can help you understand the history and current state of the project and also create alignment for any future milestones. When you have a large project, moving among departments, it might also be advantageous to run these types of workshops at significant milestones.

Discovery workshops are great for focussing on just the user and business needs, without looking at solutions. Here you can try to understand any underlying problems.

Here are some questions you might be looking to answer in a discovery workshop:

  • Do we have any research, and what further research needs to be conducted?
  • Do we have any information on what users find useful?
  • Which stakeholders should be involved?
  • Understanding of business processes
  • Are there any similar/supporting projects happening with the organisation?
  • What is the end goal of this project/milestone?
  • How will our success be measured?
  • Are there any potential roadblocks to that success?


The first important step for a discovery workshop is to get the right people there. You don’t want to get into a further stage of the project only to find out that you’re making decisions missing essential knowledge. This might mean doing a preliminary stakeholder mapping exercise to identify those who need to attend.

Try to get a variety of levels of management, as well as those who have direct contact with your users. If you get get the person who is signing off on the project in the room early, you can get buy-in from them, and finishing the project is a lot easier. People on the ground should know users pain points.

Usually 6-8 people is ideal depending on the business. Fewer than that and you risk missing information, higher than that and too many opinions can risk stalling the workshop.

Gather your goals, questions and processes

Your goals for a discovery workshop might be to understand the current state of the business or part of the business you’re looking at, and to document existing ideas.

Questions might include who your partners departments/people may be within the company; what research has already been conducted, what ideas the team already has.

Processes to find answers to these questions might be stakeholder mapping, hundred dollar tests, NUF tests, post-up ideas.

Get your tools together

Discovery workshop techniques usually require whiteboards, flip-charts, sharpies, walls, post-its etc, so make sure you have those at hand.

Your workshop may be a half or full-day, so ensure you have plenty of water, tea and coffee, plus snacks and a plan for lunch if needed.


If participants haven’t met before, doing a round-robin of introductions is a good idea. As with all workshops, defining why people are here and what you are aiming to achieve is critical for the success of a discovery workshop.

Record all of your outputs; take photos along the way so that nothing is lost.


For a discovery workshop, there are plenty of exercises you can employ to ensure you get actionable results. Choose them to best fit your workshop goals, and be ready to not go with plan A. Sometimes questions arise mid-workshop which are best answered by an exercise you hadn’t planned on using.

A great resource with hundreds of exercises is


Email your participants with a thank you, and let them know when your summary can be expected.

In that summary, include a reminder of the goal or mission of the discovery workshop. Explain each activity and why it was chosen. Provide insights into what that activity revealed, and provide photos of the activities. Lastly, include next steps; whether that’s another workshop and/or decisions that were made.

This is a part of a series of articles on different types of UX Workshops and what they are generally used for. Learn about the other types of UX workshops: Empathy Workshops, Design (studio), Prioritisation and Design Critique soon.

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