Design Thinking Toolkit, Activity 5 – Remember the Future

Welcome to our series on Design Thinking methods and activities. You’ll find a full list of posts in this series at the end of the page.

Remember the Future

Primary Goal To understand how the client stakeholders define success.
When To Use At the start of a project or any time you’re beginning a new initiative.
Time Required On average, 1 hour. Add or subtract time depending on the size of the product or feature.
Number of Participants 2-4+, 1 facilitator
Who Should Participate? The core team, typically consisting of the product owner, project manager, design lead, technical/development lead, and/or 2-4 client stakeholders.
Supplies Large whiteboard or Post-it tabletop pads, Sharpies for each participant, different colored Post-its, whiteboard markers, and a set of your product’s user personas.

Once again, we’ll be referring to Lift as our project and client example.

1. Prepare Your Materials

Sometime before the activity, prep all of your supplies. If you’re able, print out the product’s user personas so that the client can easily reference them. Gather enough Post-its so that each participant has one Post-it color per user persona.

You’ll also want to prep three large Post-it sheets. On the first write “6 months,” on another “1 year,” and finally “3 years.”

When you arrive to your activity location, place the large sheets on the wall, pass out each set of Post-its, Sharpies, and the print-outs of your personas.

2. Explain the Activity

Explain that you’ll be thinking about how the product will make their personas or users successful in the future, in particular after its launch 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years out. You want them to describe in detail specifics about how the product will make them feel (ex. happy, empowered, safe, secure).

If possible have them assign metrics to some of their thoughts. For example, a Lift stakeholder might say that their New York users felt empowered to sell their vehicles and, therefore, were able to save $5-10k annually by taking a Lift instead.

Have each stakeholder present their ideas and explain them out-loud as they post each note to the appropriate timeframe.

••• Advanced Edition •••

If you want to take this exercise to the next level, you can add in a few specifics to help guide stakeholder’s input. First, select one timeframe in which you’ll frame a majority of the feedback. For example, we’ll start with 1 year.

Then for that year break the Post-it into 3 columns:

  • Tweets
  • New York Times Headline
  • Celebrity Endorsement

Then have each stakeholder write out scenarios where users, journalists, and celebrities would talk about how their products makes them successful or helps improve their quality of life.

For example, an Lift executive might write the following for each section:

  • Twitter: “I just rode with the coolest Lift driver. He was super friendly and drove us thru @TacoBell omwh. #winning”
  • New York Times Headline: “Lift Gets $500 Million in New Funding Due to Overwhelming Demand”
  • Celebrity Endorsement: Bill Nye endorses Lift as champion for helping combat climate change!

The advanced version of the exercise is fun and impactful for a couple reasons. First, it helps frames participants feedback by helping them be more specific with their feedback. Second, it’s fun to think through scenarios of people saying encouraging things about your product plus it offers a chance to include user feedback and perceptions (Twitter) and business goals (New York Times).

3. Review

After each person has gone through all their definitions of success, discuss as a group which are the most important to keep track of. The most important definitions can help you drive the priority of your design work and backlog. They’ll also help your team drive towards a specific goal that the group has aligned on.

And that’s a wrap! Check back soon for new lessons, and leave me a comment below if you’ve given Remember The Future a try.

Class dismissed!


Reference for this exercise: Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Creative Play by Luke Hohmann (2006)

Atomic’s Design Thinking Toolkit

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