Discovery Operations Guide


HCD Discovery Operations and Concept illustrations shown side by side to help locate the current phase of the Discovery process. The first bubble of the HCD Discovery Concept diagram is filled in, with the other two bubbles grayed out. The Project, Team Building, Leadership Buy-In, and Planning 1 sections of the Operations diagram are filled in, with the rest of the diagram grayed out.

Getting Started

Our frame of reference largely defines our ideas of what is possible. For this reason, creating new solutions and contributing value to systems and organizations is often a function of reframing our perception of a problem or situation. When we think narrowly, in reference to the well-established, or only in terms of functional outcomes that could address a problem, we limit our ability to generate forward-thinking solutions. Framing and reframing helps us see more options.

Framing isn’t something that design made up; it’s a critical sensibility that you can apply across you life. For example, puns are reframes of a word or phrase: the author takes the primary or expected meaning of a word and changes the context to create a comedic effect. As in, “Thanks for explaining the word “many” to me, it means a lot.” More seriously, in recent years the healthcare industry has reframed medical treatment to include prevention as well as intervention. Medical providers used to define care narrowly as a reaction to a specific event, such as a resetting a broken arm in an elderly patient. Now, they define healthcare as including the prevention of osteoporosis so the arm won’t break in the first place.

This section will help you step through constructing a frame that is wide enough to create new solutions, but narrow enough to be realistic about constraints such as skills, personnel, time, and budget. As a rule of thumb, err towards a narrow frame in which you could produce thorough work over a larger frame that you might struggle to produce or implement.


Use this checklist as you move through this section to esure you’re set up for success in the Framing phase.

  • Read the Brief & Frame section of the HCD Discovery Stage Concept Guide

  • Identify your Leadership and Project Leads.

  • Speak in detail with leadership to understand their project brief or the problem they would like to research.

  • Produce a Problem Frame Statement based on detailed conversations with leadership and / or stakeholders.

  • Receive acknowledgment and confirmation of that your Problem Frame Statement from leadership and / or stakeholders.

  • Investigate prior research in this area through traditional journals and publications both online and in VA archives.

  • Determine the project scale / scope.