Online Workshop- Venture Design I: Achieving Customer Relevance

Learning Objectives

This workshop introduces a set of simple but powerful tools for creating a vivid picture of your customer (buyers and users), a picture that’s both actionable and testable.

  1. Hands-on experience using the design thinking techniques to structure your understanding of the customerThink-See-Feel-Do
    • personas (think-see-feel-do)
    • problem scenarios
    • alternatives
    • value propositions
  2. Working fluency in the storyboarding process
  3. Techniques to structure customer interviews, acquire and engage subjects, run interviews and make decisions based on your results

This workshop is followed by a workshop on lean/Lean Startup and testing new ideas: Venture Design II: Iterating to Success.


The following are the workshop slides:


This is a video of yours truly delivering the explanatory portions of the workshop.

Preparation & Prerequisites

There are no prerequisites.

Instructor notes: The checklists below describe ‘minimum viable preparation’ and additional related preparation.

Minimum Viable Preparation

  1. Review the slides
  2. Prep the materials below

Additional Preparation

Review the tutorials on the underlying tools and frameworks from the exercises:

  1. Personas
  2. Business Model Canvas
  3. Storyboarding

If you’re interested in the surrounding body of work on Venture Design, see that link and if you’re interested in a structure program for product design & entre/intra-preneurship, check out Startup Sprints.


1. Index Cards

While Post-It’s are more in fashion for design workshop type events, these exercises are designed around index cards. The reason is that the students will progressively layer more information on to the cards. That said, use whatever works for you; just make sure to review the exercises and have advice for your participants on how they’ll organize their work. I do not recommend doing these on the computer- it tends to create writers block and a desire to create something more permanent than this material is meant to be.

2. PDF of the Business Model Canvas

We’ll use this briefly as an organizing tool.


3. Storyboarding Squares

Cutting-Storyboard-Squares STORYBOARDING SQUARES

For workshops, group exercises, and generally getting started with storyboarding, I like to use these paper squares and a sharpie/pen. The PDF you can download here has a set of typical scenes which you can print out and use. They do need to be cut or ripped since there are two/page. You’ll find cutting marks and the individual pages and what I actually like to do is use a metal ruler and just rip them (see left). I created them with the online tool, and you may find you want to go there and create your own (not to mention creating digital storyboards once you’re ready). If you want to use the above squares in the PDF on, you can copy the storyboard template using the preceding link.

4. Previews Squares (optional)

These are strictly optional, but when I bind up the storyboarding squares for students, I noticed that they then were spending a lot of time sorting through them to find the backdrops they want. The agenda below is pretty speedy, and I found that if I put up full (8.5″x11″) ‘previews’ of what was on the different squares, it helped the students decide and then locate what they wanted quicker. If you want to print these and tape them to the wall, you may find it helps the experience:

5. A Product Idea to Work

Since the workshop involves sitting down and creating storyboards, all the participants will need to have an idea to use. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in an advance state of planning- as long as they generally know what it is and who it’s for, I think you’ll find it’s sufficient. For those without an idea (or wondering what level of description will work), here are some sample ideas: Venture Concepts.

Workshop Agenda

Item Time (min.) Materials & Technique
Intro’s and set up on ideas 5 Slides 1-6

The workshop is hands-on and students should have an idea they’ll use through the exercises. Their own idea will be much better, but if they don’t have one there are a set of predefined ideas here: Venture Concepts.In a perfect world, the students review these and select an idea in advance (so they’re already a little familiar with it before they start the workshop).Intro to Venture Design & Design Thinking10Slides 7-27Exercise: A Day in the Life7Slides 28-39

This is an improvisational exercise to show participants aspects of the construction of empathy. The time allotted (roughly) allows for you to ask each closing question of two participants, which I recommend for contrast. Make sure it’s clear that there’s no right answer but do probe and ask them why they came up with a particular answer. Make sure it’s also clear that many possible answers are fine, and there’s no reason to feel obliged to agree or on the other hand feel like it’s an argument if two answers differ.Exercise: Write Down as many personas as you can for your venture/product (at least 5)4Slide 40

Materials: Index cards & sharpie (or pen; whatever)Notes:Have the students use one index card per persona. It uses more cards but they’ll be layering additional detail on those cards and need the space. And they’ll be sorting them as well.

Suggest they use the naming convention on the slide, ‘Andrew the Accountant’, for example. This helps (some) keep the personas real and human.

As with all the exercises, each team member should do this individually. They’ll do peer reviews and can compare notes later. If they work in teams, they’ll spend a lot of the time negotiating and discussing.

These timeframes won’t accommodate that and if you feel strongly you want them to work in teams, I’d roughly double these timeframes.Exercise: Are they buyers, users, or both? Note on each Post-It with a ‘B’, and/or ‘U’1Slide 41

Materials: Use those same index cards, annotating each with a ‘B’ and/or ‘U’.Exercise: Can you think of 5 real people for each?2Slide 42

Materials: use the back of the existing index cardsExercise: Sort the personas. Which have the most compelling need, desire? Why?1Slide 43Personas in more detail: Think-See-Feel-DoUsing problem scenario+alternative+value proposition trios to operationalize your personas.3Slides 43-50Exercise: Brainstorm:: problem scenarios:: alternatives:: your value propositions7Slide 51

Materials: use index cards; one per trio (more if needed for space)

Notes:- What problems (desires) do you believe the various personas have that are relevant to your venture?- What’s their alternative (or alternatives)? What are they doing right now instead of using your product?

– What’s your value proposition for them?


They do NOT need to link these to personas yet. Make sure to mention this- comes up a lot.Exercise: Prioritize the propositions2Slide 52Introducing the Business Model Canvas5Slides 53-56Exercise: Sort and link above to personas on the Business Model Canvas.3Slide 57

Materials: printout of the Canvas and colored pencils

The idea is to list these in ranked order and link the personas to the value propositions (in that direction; it’s important to start with the individual persona). .BREAK10(~ 1 hr.)Exercise: Formulate your Product Hypothesis4Slide 59

This translates the design thinking outputs into a testable hypothesis (which is also an input to the next workshop on Lean Startup).Exercise: Formulate your Positioning Statement4Slide 60

This is important since otherwise in the peer reviews that follow, the students will likely spend most of their time explaining their venture.If the students are using the synthetic ideas, they’ll already have these as part of the venture brief. They may want to re-render them, but more likely if all the students are using the synthetic ideas you can skip this. If you have a mix, you can have the students using the synthetic ideas work on Think-See-Feel-Do for their top persona.Exercise: Peer Presentations10Slide 61

I’d call out the time every 2.5 minutes (halfway point of each presentation and then the switch). This is a short timeframe for the unpracticed presenter.Intro to storyboards and the Enable Quiz example4Slides: 62-66Exercise: Create a before and after storyboard for your key Problem Scenario-Value Proposition10Slide 67

Materials: Storyboarding Squares.More on personas1Slide 68Demo: Tools for customer discovery:- customer interviews- concierge MVP- Google Trends- Google AdWords

– Facebook Ad’s

– Landing Pages

– Mouseflow/Clicky5Slide 69

You may find it more convenient to use the screen cast for this.I start by finding a photo on social media to warm up the customer discovery- not strictly necessary but I find it helps keep teams moving in the direction of humanizing the persona. I find a photo in the screencast and you may find it more convenient to use that.

Otherwise, find a photo, any photo that represents your persona- someone you know or know-of. If B2C, Facebook is good. If B2B, LinkedIn is good and drop it into the personas section of the Venture Design template.

Customer interviews: Show the corresponding section of the Venture Design template.

Google Trends: I use Enable Quiz (ruby developer vs. .net developer)

Google AdWords: I use the same above examples.

Mouseflow/Clicky: I show activity on my book site.Summary on customer discovery and hypothesis creation for persona hypothesis2Slides 70-72Notes:Don’t worry these are short, staccato-y slides.Persona hypothesis2Slides: 73-77Problem hypothesis2Slides: 78-84Value Hypothesis2Slides: 85-92Customer Creation Hypothesis2Slides: 93-94Customer development and next steps4Slides 95-98

If you’re doing it, I set up the 2nd workshop, Venture Design II: Iterating to Success, transitioning from design thinking and customer discovery to direct customer experimentation of a value proposition.Resources1Slide 99

Notes:I point out the Venture Design page as a good jumping in point if they’re looking for materials.