Skip to content
The Innovation Process
Activity 1.1 D

Understand users

The exercises in this activity will help you generate initial insights into the nature of the problem from the perspective of the user.

Gaining user-based insights around needs, expectations, preferences, and/or experiences is critical to ensuring a user-centred approach. In this activity, field research and/or interviews are not required. The goal is to think about the perspectives of key stakeholders so that you can identify what you know, and what you don’t know about their particular needs, aspirations and experiences.

“Working with those who have direct experience of the problem was observed to be critical to meeting the success criterion of improved solution. ” More Than Just Luck (Obrecht and Warner, 2016)

Wherever possible try to ensure that problem holders can articulate their perspective directly. If not, draw on insights you have from reviewing programme feedback, and monitoring, evaluation and research reports. Make sure you prep all participants to avoid negative stereotypes and ensure that they respect the dignity of all groups that may be discussed and profiled in workshop activities.

Target Group

Nesta’s DIY Toolkit provides an excellent activity and template for better understanding and defining those who you intend to reach with potential solutions.

According to the DIY toolkit, “Target Group is probably best used when you are trying to work out some initial ideas about who you want to cater to, and why … This tool is a quick and easy way to work out an overview and develop an understanding of the different people your work might reach, and the resources you need to do so.”

For further guidance, watch this video:

Download and print out the template (as large as possible) and work in a group to ensure that a range of perspectives can feed into the overall picture. As stated by Nesta, “given the strategic nature of the inputs/outputs, this needs consultations with seniors, peers and ideally needs to be revised after a first pass.”

When carrying out this exercise, be aware of any biases participants might have about the target group, and ensure that you also consider the impact on other groups that might be affected by the problem. For example, if you consider urban refugees to be your target group, you should also consider impacts on members of the host community.


Nesta’s DIY Toolkit also provides a Personas template to help visually represent key characteristics of the particular groups you intend to reach.

According to the DIY Toolkit, this task is intended “to compile a portrait of a typical person that could represent one of the Personas your organisation is targeting … Being aware of the different preferences, routines and motivations these different Personas have can help you customise your products and services to these specific subgroups.”

For further guidance, watch this video:

Download and print out the template (as large as possible) and ideally work in a group to ensure a range of perspectives can feed into the overall picture.

Jobs to be Done (Value Proposition Canvas)

This tool is based on the idea that people don’t just ‘buy’ products and services, but that they are looking for something to do a particular ‘job’ for them. This change in perspective is intended to make you focus less on the product or the service itself, and more on what the ‘user’ is trying to achieve by buying or accessing it.The tool highlights three different job ‘types’:

  • Functional – getting a task done
  • Emotional – to provide you with a feeling
  • Social – to influence how others see you

This exercise will enable you to explore these ‘jobs’ from the perspective of the user. It will help to deliver initial insights into the ‘job to be done’ (the problem) at more than just the superficial level of the immediate ‘functional’ job.

For further guidance, watch this video from Strategyzer:

Download the Value Proposition Canvas and focus on completing the ‘customer segment’ for this task. Be careful not to think about any proposed ‘solution’ to jobs to be done.