Discovery techniques to reveal new ideas


Discovery techniques - Part 3

This is the final post based on our 'discovery cards', a tool used in the Hindsight BDD training course that provides a set of simple techniques which are helpful in generating questions and uncovering more information in our collaborative discussions. The previous posts have explored ways to get the conversation started and how to deep dive into ideas, but what about missed ideas or opportunities?

Hindsight matus looking at card.png

Our last set of techniques can be used by teams to explore the examples and ideas that have already been discovered and captured. Teams can use examples as a jumping board into other ideas and discussions that might not necessarily have cropped up at the start of the discussion. These techniques show you a few ways you can start that process.

Injecting uncertainty

Making the Then steps of an example uncertain by injecting the word should trigger the brain to think or ask What else?


Then the guest should be upgraded to a superior room

Use it when…

Full examples have already been created and you want to see if you have missed anything.

Watch out

Some teams don’t like to leave the should within examples; if appropriate, you can remove should when development starts.

Active voice

An active voice is where the actor performs the action denoted by the verb. Writing ‘Then’ steps in an active voice can uncover hidden actors and possibly new examples.


When the guest checks in
When the receptionist checks in the guest

Use it when…

Full examples have already been created and you want to see if you have missed anything.

Watch out

This technique takes a bit of practice to get right. You want to balance writing well-written examples with active voices, to ensure the example is clear to everyone.


Identifying nouns, or compound nouns, in an example and attempting to replace them with similar nouns, can help uncover new and important information that leads to further discussions.


When the guest books a standard room

...But what about when it’s not a ‘standard room’, but a ‘premium room’, ‘junior suite’ or ‘penthouse’?

Use it when…

Full examples have already been created and you want to see if you have missed anything.

Watch out

The intention is to discover other important factors that are affected by your example, not to exhaustively test it.

Don't miss an opportunity

Once you have captured your examples, regardless of whether it’s in Gherkin format or not, it’s worth reviewing them to see what other information or assumptions they might reveal. By using these techniques you can trigger different conversations that start from the example but then move into unexpected areas of discussion.

Hang on... Are you done yet?

One last thing to mention is appreciating when to finish a collaborative discussion. Each of the techniques we’ve shown over this 3-part series helps teams to generate questions, and if successful those questions generate better understanding which in itself leads to more examples, as shown in this diagram:

understanding examples questions ?

A collaborative session will typically follow this flow until the questions have dried out. If there are no more questions, then it means it’s time to stop. That doesn’t mean other questions can’t be asked at a later date, but there is no point in trying to force the conversation.

The final wrap-up

Before you really do finish, it might be worth going through a checklist to be sure:

  1. Has everyone in the team discussed and agreed on the scenarios and examples?

  2. Are the scenarios easy to read out loud and do they use concise language?

  3. Do you have the right number of scenarios?

  • Are there too few? Maybe something is missing?

  • Are there too many? Maybe the story needs breaking up or the examples are too low level?

In the end, as a team practices more and more with collaboration, they will begin to get a better sense of when to stop. These discovery techniques, as based on the Hindsight 'discovery cards' used in the BDD training course, are there as a guide to help facilitate the conversation and, with time, your team will soon be asking questions naturally.

There's more where that came from...

This is blog post 3 of our 3 part discovery technique series. You can find links to these below:

Discovery technique post 1 - Discovery techniques to get started

Discovery technique post 2 - Discovery techniques to dig deeper

About the author

Mark Winteringham, aka @2bittester, is a coach, teacher, mentor, tester and international speaker, and ranked joint 8th in Agile Testing Days 2017 list of most influential agile testing professionals. Mark has worked on award-winning projects using various web, mobile and desktop technologies and he has been an agent for change for clients across a wide range of sectors, implementing successful BDD and automation in testing strategies. Mark’s focus for the past year or so has been educating teams on how not to use BDD, and he co-developed and delivers the Hindsight 2-day BDD & Cucumber training course.

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