Design discovery is more muscle over means

Boon Yew Chew
2 min readNov 3, 2021

Discovery as a verb

Lisa, one of our talented UX researchers on our team, organised a “discovery methods” learning session recently. It was really refreshing to have everyone come together and go through the various approaches we’ve used in the past. There’s no one right way to run a discovery, so it’s always valuable to have a broad set of tools, and most importantly, lots of experience trying different things out to see what works.

Sometimes coming back to old resources sheds new light on its meaning. One of the resources we put in our list was Will Myddelton’s article, “Three Ways to Run Better Discoveries”, which didn’t really resonate with me the first time I read it. It made more sense this time I read it, especially in the context of how discovery is / might be commonly done at GDS. In this sense, discovery is a set of activities that takes place as part of a sensemaking exercise to figure out what to do next.

But discovery to me feels less like a “phase” and more of a continuous, never ending endeavour. In fact, I like to think of it as an organisational muscle, which grows stronger over time as we become more capable in navigating and building successfully towards ambiguous futures.

Sometimes I like to call this a “muscle over means” thing… where it’s less important how things are done to get to the right outcomes, and more important than the road is travelled together and done continuously and habitually.

The more often you do discovery, the more aware you become of the sensemaking process, the more natural it becomes, the less religious you need to be about tools and methods.

It’s very much a people / context thing, and that there is never one right way to run discoveries. Or three. Or whatever. It really depends on your situation and where you are along the journey. That’s precisely what designers need to get better at figuring out.

It’s a muscle, not a means.

Originally posted on https://listed.to/@Boon/29294/discovery-muscle-over-means

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Boon Yew Chew

Principal UX designer at Elsevier. IxDA local leader and board alumni. Strategy. Systems. Visual thinking. Design. Has a brain in his stomach.