Create an Exploration Plan

With your team, create a plan for the research you will be conducting during the Explore phase. Your plan should help your team develop a deeper understanding of your challenge from different points of view.

Since your team will likely be conducting research activities separately from each other, it’s important to be clear about your objectives during the Explore phase.

Your plan should include the following:

  • What you want to learn (make sure you have a variety of topics - you can refer to the Frame Your Understanding activity from the Define phase)
  • Who you want to learn from (make sure you have a range of perspectives - you can refer to the Identify Your Stakeholders activity from the Define phase)
  • How you want to learn from them (make sure you focus on methods that uncover deep insights - we’ve provided some recommended methods below)

You can use the following framework to craft your exploration plan:

  • To understand people’s experience of the challenge, _________ (team member) will be doing _________ (method) with _________ (people) to learn about _________ (topic).
  • To understand the systems, processes, or environments that impact this challenge, _________ (team member) will be doing _________ (method) with _________ (people) to learn about _________ (topic).
  • To gather inspiration from different contexts to help reframe how we view the problem,   _________ (team member) will be doing _________ (method) with _________ (people) to learn about _________ (topic).

Above all, you should make sure to engage the people at the center of your challenge. These will be the people you design for, so it’s important to understand their perspectives.

Time Needed

1 hour

Exploration Methods Overview

Below are some common research methods used in design thinking. As you build your exploration plan, we suggest using a mix of methods so you can listen to what people think as well as see what they do. Try a few different ones to get a sense of the value each provides.

Please note that we did not include surveys in our methods guide. They can be used as a supplement to some of these other methods, since they can be useful to understand the extent of the challenge. But as a method, they don't provide the quality and depth of information that foster breakthroughs in insight.

Individual interviews

Engaging people one-on-one for in-depth conversations.

Good for:

  • Discovering the thoughts, feelings, emotions, attitudes, motivations, and aspirations of each person
  • Establishing a rapport with the person to gain more open, honest perspectives

Group interviews

Engaging multiple people people around a topic.

Good for:

  • Learning about a culture of a group through their interpersonal dynamics

  • Providing a platform for many voices to be heard

Observation

Observing people in context.

Good for:

  • Getting an unbiased view into what people actually do, rather than what they say they do
  • Seeing how people “work around” a challenge
  • Gaining insight into the flow of activity within a setting, such as such as mapping the path of children at an amusement park, or observing people’s use of technology in a coffee shop

Shadowing

Gaining perspective by following people through their day-to-day lives.

Good for:

  • Blending the values of observation and interview
  • Gaining insight into the motives guiding certain decisions or behaviors as they are happening

User self-documentation (Collaging, diaries, photo journals)

Letting users frame and record their own experiences for you.

Good for:

  • Learning from people when you can't interview or observe them directly
  • Giving people valuable prep-work for an interview
  • Tracking patterns in habits, such as journaling about an experience over a period of time (i.e., daily diary of adapting a lesson plan)
  • Having a collection of a person’s experience (photos, videos, notes) without having to intrude
  • Gaining insight into deep-seated attitudes, motivations, or beliefs though projective techniques (i.e., having a teenager create a collage that reflects her self-image)

Expert interviews

Engaging those who already have deep knowledge about the subject.

Good for:

  • Building context around how a system works, the history around your topic, cultural or sociological implications, regulatory implications, or new technologies)
  • Helping stakeholders feel like they are part of the process
  • Enhancing other empathic approache

Example of an Exploration Plan

Design challenge:
How might we help foster a community of respect and rapport at our school?


To understand people’s experience of the challenge, Lindsey and Sam will be conducting interviews with students, teachers, and school leadership to learn about their positive and negative experiences regarding respect within the school. They will also be doing collaging activities with them to define what a “respectful community” looks like, feels like, and sounds like.


To understand the systems, processes, or environments that impact this challenge, Jeff will be doing interviews with experts in the sociological fields to learn about the cultural underpinnings of our community, and interviews with child development experts about the interpersonal development of our students.


To gather inspiration from different contexts to help reframe how we view the problem, Kirtley will be conducting interviews with parents in the community to learn best practices about how they develop respect and rapport in their household. She will also be conducting observations at the local youth centers to observe how respectful behavior is fostered between youths and adults, as well as between youths themselves, in an environment outside of school.

Do a reality check

To foster a deeper understanding of the barriers people experience or workarounds that people currently use, think of people who are on the “extremes” of your challenge area - such as people who have successfully navigated your challenge area, and those who haven’t. For those who were successful, focus your learnings on what helped them navigate or deal with the challenge. For those who weren’t, focus your learnings on what the barriers were that got in their way.

Think of people who are on the "extremes"

To foster a deeper understanding of the barriers people experience or workarounds that people currently use, think of people who are on the “extremes” of your challenge area - such as people who have successfully navigated your challenge area, and those who haven’t. For those who were successful, focus your learnings on what helped them navigate or deal with the challenge. For those who weren’t, focus your learnings on what the barriers were that got in their way.

Engage with those who have the most insight

To generate deeper understanding, it’s important to engage with groups of people who have the most insight into the challenge you’re investigating while also ensuring that a diversity of experiences are represented. These groups of people could vary on a number of factors: demographic information (i.e., age, gender, grade level), roles (i.e., teachers, students, administration, parents), psychographics (i.e., personality, values, attitudes, interests, lifestyles), and experience with the challenge (i.e., level of success with dealing with problem).

Prioritize

If there are a large number of topics or people to engage, prioritize them. What are the must-have topics/people to better understand, and what are the nice-to-have ones?

Privacy Policy / Terms of Use