Seven books that will improve your UX and strategy workshops

As a huge fan of using workshops for discovery, I've taught how to plan and facilitate workshops to scores of user experience practitioners and business analysts in Avanade's Digital group. During this time, I've realized collaborative working sessions can feel like an alien world.

The following seven books will help you shift your design practice to working more collaboratively with both your team and your clients.

Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change

By Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon

Required reading. Although Ertel and Solomon focus Moments of Impact on conversations about strategy, their thoughtful, step-by-step approach to planning, framing, and facilitating workshops applies to any type of workshop (engage multiple perspectives, frame the issues, set the scene, make it an experience). Once you understand all  design conversations are strategic conversations, you shift from tactical, project-focused workshops to workshops move your client towards the world they want to live in.

Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs

By  Larry KeeleyHelen WaltersRyan PikkelBrian Quinn 

Ten Types of Innovation provides a framework for thinking about the different ways organizations can innovate. Numerous examples illustrate how different types of innovations work together to help organization's make greater or smaller leaps in the marketplace. This book helps you understand the types of questions and directions you can explore with your client to break out project thinking and start thinking more in terms of helping your client evolve.  

Rapid Problem Solving With Post-It Notes

By David Straker

Required reading. Although the title mentions sticky notes, Straker walks you through archetypal problems and activities for solving them. Using sticky notes as a conceit, he shows you what to focus on, how to run activities, and offers tips and tricks for troubleshooting, as well. And of course, rapid problem solving with Post-it notes might as well be be a synonym for collaborative workshops.

The Back Of The Napkin: Solving Problems And Selling Ideas With Pictures

By Dan Roam

Often, workshops require you capture a wide range of information in a visual format. Roam's handy guide explores the best ways to capture different types of information. This includes how to recognize what is what and how to best represent it visually. Like Rapid Problem Solving With Post-It Notes, Roam's book provides a mental toolbox you will reach for again and again.

Game storming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers

By Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo

Required reading. Chapters 1 and 2 contains the best description for how to structure a workshop. Because of my personal style, I find the majority of the activities in the book less useful as recipes to follow. (They may resonate 100% with you.) However, the activities show how to design activities for specific outcomes, as well as the range of possible activities you can guide participants into doing, from serious to playful.

The Innovator's Toolkit: 50+ Techniques for Predictable and Sustainable Organic Growth

By David SilversteinPhilip Samuel, and Neil DeCarlo

Like Gamestorming, this book collects numerous techniques and activities you can run in workshops (or even as simple work exercises). Where Gamestorming approaches activities from more of a design perspective, The Innovator's Toolkit approaches from a business perspective. Like Gamestorming, the large variety shows how to construct activities to address specific questions, as well as demonstrates more of the art of the possible.

Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want

By Alexander OsterwalderYves PigneurGregory Bernarda, Alan Smith, Trish Papadakos

This book presents collaborative ways to explore business and user needs in the service of designing a value proposition. You can use this approach as-is, or use it as a starting point for crafting your own activities. Highlights include simple structures that can guide conversations as well as collections of trigger questions to start or extend discussions.

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