Ideating and validating concepts can be tricky. It requires the team to come up with solutions that work within a context that they may not be familiar with. This leads to ambiguity and high potential for failure. What if there was a method to create concepts in a fidelity low enough for quick iteration? And what if we could do this in a realistic context?

We sometimes ideate by role-playing. As a group we get together, observe users in the real world and mimic their workflow as a means to brainstorm together.

Outlined below is our 5 step process for success.

Step1: Define the goals

While researching a new topic, it’s easy to get sucked into a rabbit hole of exploration. But good research needs to be well defined to be actionable.

Here are a few questions that help us define what our participants need to experience:

  1. What problems are we ideating for?
  2. What user group faces this problem?
  3. What situations represent this problem?

Step2: Build a Narrative

In this step, we outline the workflow of the system - the key players, the side characters, their daily struggles and the backdrop.

To do this well, it’s important to capture the overtones of the experience. So we try to identify what can make the activity feel authentic.

If possible, we strongly advocate going to the field and making observations for reference. If not, secondary research is a great plan-b — books, people and videos can offer you clues on what a realistic setting looks like.

Using this as the base, we build the narrative. We try to cover the following:

We then determine how many rounds of role-play are required for participants to have a rich experience.

Step3: Set the stage