How User Research Creates Team Alignment

Three workshop activities to try with your team

We’ve all been there. You’re in a room with your teammates brainstorming ideas about a new feature, a new product or an improvement solution and nothing productive happens after two or three hours in that room.

It’s frustrating and it becomes even more so when something is decided upon that you disagree with. What happens next? You go back to your computer and perform tasks that you don’t love anymore because you don’t feel like your opinion matters.

So what should we do to avoid this kind of situation? Workshop activities are the answer! Let’s explore three activities that create team alignment and how user research plays a huge role.

Problem Framing Workshop

Problem Framing is a design thinking method used to understand, define and prioritize complex business problems and help us make better decisions, faster.  

Einstein is rumored to have said that if he only had one hour to save the world, he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.

A Problem Framing workshop has four steps:

  1. Writing Problem Statements
  2. Statements mapping
  3. Statements voting
  4. Assess what can go wrong if problem not solved

Writing Problem Statements is a task where every team member writes alone problem statements following this structure:

Who is experiencing the problem?

What is the problem?

Where does the problem present itself? Are there any other people involved?

Why does it matter?

An example can be: “We cannot focus on the mobile version right now because our development resources are limited and this would affect our scope.”

After the statements are written, they are mapped on a simple effort/impact grid and then voted on by every team member.

Impact & Effort Matrix, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane

At the end, the team assesses what can go wrong if the problem is not solved, define what their definition of success is and what KPIs the team should watch.

The idea of this exercise is to align everybody on the same problems, so everybody can focus on the same thing.

Value Proposition Canvas Mapping

The Value Proposition Canvas is a tool which can help ensure that a product or service is positioned around what the customer values and needs.

The Value Proposition Canvas can be used when there is a need to refine an existing product or service offering or where a new offering is being developed from scratch.


The Value Proposition Canvas has two components that communicate together: the value proposition and the customer profile. Let’s explore each section.

The Value Map

The Value Map focuses on what the business has to offer to our customer, and it should be a team effort when completing this part.

Gain creators – how the product or service creates customer gains and how it offers added value to the customer

Pain relievers – a description of exactly how the product or service alleviates customer pains

Products and services – the products and services which create gain and relieve pain and which underpin the creation of value for the customer.

Customer Profile

This section is all about the customer. It’s extremely important to complete this part of the canvas with real data based on comprehensive research.

Gains – the benefits which the customer expects and needs, what would delight customers and the things which may increase likelihood of adopting a value proposition

Pains – the negative experiences, emotions and risks that the customer experiences in the process of getting the job done

Customer jobs – the functional, social and emotional tasks customers are trying to perform, problems they are trying to solve and needs they wish to satisfy

After listing gain creators, pain relievers and products and services, each point identified can be ranked from nice-to-have to essential in terms of value to the customer. 

A fit is achieved when the products and services offered address the most significant pains and gains from the customer profile.

It is then necessary to validate what is important to customers and get their feedback on the value proposition. These insights can then be used to go back and continually refine the proposition.

Assumption Mapping

Many consider this to be the most fun exercise! Assumption mapping is the practice of identifying the risky assumptions being made about a new product, service or feature.

The idea is to inform better products by understanding the assumptions being made about the desirability, feasibility, and viability of a new idea.

Assumption Mapping steps:

  1. Start with topic questions
  2. Make assumptions
  3. Assess importance and knowledge of it 
  4. Assess the risk of an assumption and how easy is to validate
  5. Generate research questions and prioritize

Once you’ve documented assumptions and you know the next steps for gathering data, it’s time to conduct research and test your assumptions. 

After the designated research has been conducted, you will move forward in one of two directions: 

  • If your assumptions were wrong, refine them and continue documenting them until you feel confident in your data.
  • If your assumptions are validated, you’re ready to turn them into factual statements.
User Research

You’ve done all these exercises, but where is the research? User research plays a key role because you need to validate the problems that you’ve listed, you need to validate your assumptions that you’ve mapped, and you need to validate the value proposition of your business. Before starting any research study, you should know what to research about, and these three activities give you enough questions that need to be answered by user research studies.

We are responsible more than ever for our design decisions, and we are responsible for the impact that our design can have on people’s lives. Taking the time to complete these exercises with your team can go a long way.

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