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June 18, 2020

How discovery workshops help to create amazing projects.

Amy, Paul and Nathan during a discovery workshop

The start of any project is exciting for both us and our clients. Here at Blue Stag, we believe running a discovery workshop is the best way to kick off a new one! These interactive, creative and collaborative workshops ensure everyone is marching forward in perfect unison. They are also a great way to set the foundations of a project.

What are discovery workshops?

The discovery workshop is a strategic session carried out at the beginning of a project. It involves the Blue Stag project team and our clients and their stakeholders. This is an ideal opportunity for us to delve deep into the client’s organisation. Learning about their business goals and strategy, recognising potential challenges, understanding the different audiences. Then we can begin scoping out the best solution.

Like our clients, each workshop is unique. Our workshops are carefully designed based on the brief, as there is no one size fits all. We choose activities from our workshop playbook to shape the conversation. Teasing out the details that we need to set the foundations of a successful project.

What are the benefits and why do we love them?

There are multiple benefits to running discovery workshops at the start of a project, but our top 5 are:

1. Insightful conversations

We have come to realise that these sessions are not only useful in helping Blue Stag to understand our client. But actually, they help our clients to understand a little more about their own business and stakeholders too. It isn’t often that you get a cross-functional team in the same room discussing the brand, the offering, the messaging and the website. Sometimes, this highlights areas that may need review or adjustment.

2. Understanding the audience

Usually, we have a top-level grasp of our audience from a brief. But these sessions hone in on who we are trying to communicate with. How do we want them to feel? What is our offering to them? From this, we can develop audience personas, which help us guide any marketing or business strategy going forward.

3. Everyone’s on the same page

This is one of the most important aspects of a discovery workshop. Ensuring that everyone working on the project has the same understanding of the deliverables makes for a much smoother run. It allows us to answer all questions right at the start, making sure everyone is clear about what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are doing it.

4. Better outcomes

Workshops make for better outcomes. They give the project team a deeper understanding of our client’s organisation. Whilst also giving our clients a clear understanding of our idea generation and working processes. We can get things spot on first time. No stones unturned or important gems of information missed.

5. It’s fun!

It isn’t often you can get your colouring pens and post-it notes out and let your creative ideas flow as a group. Discovery workshops are informal and relaxed. No point or question is a silly one. This is an opportunity to explore all avenues and think outside the box or focus on an idea like a set of nesting dolls.

What do discovery workshops consist of?

Discovery workshops usually consist of a series of activities, tasks and discussions. The activities are designed to really get people talking about the project. Whether it be for a new website, branding or a social media campaign.

We run the workshops during the discovery phase of a project. Shaping the session to the brief by choosing appropriate activities from our playbook. The topics covered in a workshop, and the weight that is given to each one depends wholly on the needs and requirements of that specific project.

They are easy to fit into a busy schedule as each workshop generally takes half a day to a day. It is a brilliant way to engage stakeholders of all levels in the project, from senior management to customers.

Of course, a good workshop always makes time for tea and coffee breaks, snacks and lunch. We know that all that creative thinking can be hard work. Delicious sustenance and regular breaks are vital to keeping energy levels up and the ideas flowing.

Workshop coffee break

Who should be involved?

Stakeholders can be split into two categories – internal and external. Internal stakeholders represent a mix of staff from across an organisation, with different levels of seniority and interest in the project. External stakeholders are typically customers or service users but can include audiences such as corporate partners and sponsors.

From Blue Stag’s side, we will involve key team members who are involved in the project.

What are the outcomes?

From the discovery workshops, we will produce a project blueprint. This will have business goals, audience personas, a project outline, as well as the more bespoke information based on the project.

As an example, if we were running a discovery workshop for a website, we would produce a schema, functionality outline, API integrations and user flows through the website based on our different audiences. Not only a useful tool for the project, but this report will also be vital for the business strategy and ideas moving forward.

Useful resources

If you’re interested in running a discovery workshop of your own, here are few resources you might find useful:

Dan Sargent

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