TL;DR The hopes and fears template helps us explore the power of vulnerability. It works to expose different challenges, opportunities, and feelings early on.
As humans, we have a tendency to get really focused at a very granular level about a problem or service. We might think in terms of interface, interactions, information design, or other deep topics. Sometimes we need to abstract ourselves outward a little bit and think more generally about a circumstance or way of working. This is why we created the hopes and fears template.
The hopes and fears template helps us explore the power of vulnerability. It works to expose different challenges, opportunities, and feelings early on. There is significant power in determining and exposing what people are anxious about, why they're nervous, why we’re talking about these things etc. Being able to expose these complications well ahead of designing or organizing information around a product or service gives people an opportunity to get their internal fears out of the way early on.
Why is this important?
Well, all of people on our teams are human beings. We forget sometimes! it's really important to start from a place of human vulnerability. We want to get everyone's hopes - all of the exciting things - out onto the table! We also want to respect all of the fears and the realities that different people might be experiencing. That way, we can come to a better understanding of anxieties and fears with the same kind of enthusiasm that we understand their hopes. Both sides are extremely important when we look at any product or service our team might be considering.
When to use this exercise
Hopes and fears is typically an exercise used at the beginning of a project to get everything out and take a close look at things that might be blocking you. However, you can also use it throughout the project and over time. There are certainly reasons why it might make sense for a leader to find fixed points in the design process and continue this discussion with their team. It can be helpful to talk to members about their hopes and fears over time and consider what they’ve learned so far. For example:
The hopes and fears template can give you a good idea of where you need to push more or consider new problems that you will have to solve. It also generally gives you information that can be helpful and needed as a leader to help your team move forward. There are different milestones that allow you to reevaluate hopes and fears as well. Some examples of circumstances where hopes and fears would be useful to evaluate again are:
How to use this template
This exercise is one of our more straightforward templates as it only allows you to take inventory via digital sticky notes about hopes and fears. To use the hopes and fears template, you’re going to start out by writing down your hopes and fears on the sticky notes provided. Once you’ve captured these, you’ll want to place one hope and one fear on each side. Continue to build out hopes and fears by placing each sticky note on their respective sides of the board. It’s okay to see the mirrored versions of hopes and fears on each side, but remember to try and build some divergence between the two. Be sure to look at things from different perspectives and consider other possibilities. The goal here is to help align focus on your hopes and build organization to prevent your fears from becoming reality.
Pro Tip: Change the colors of the sticky notes for each given team. For example, engineering can have red, product can use blue sticky notes, and marketing can be green. You can also flavor the sticky notes based on the persona or type of persona by changing the note colors. Use this template as both an internal and external tool to clearly map and outline different perspectives.
While this template is not as multi-stepped or complex as some of the others, it is equally as important. Oftentimes, unleashing someone's purpose and passion in a safe space can be transformative. The anxiety or anxiousness you have can actually be a bigger accelerator, so don’t let this be your ending point. You can use this template in both your personal and professional life to help express vulnerability and manifest new ideas. Hopes and fears is crucial when considering blockers and building a healthy team culture. Remember, there are certainly no right or wrong answers with this template, so be honest and use your own vulnerability to your advantage!
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