Product Discovery

Estimated reading time: 19 min

What is Product Discovery?

Product discovery is a method of understanding your customers to develop products that meet their desires exactly. It is a vital stage in product design because if businesses do not accurately demonstrate or disprove their customer assumptions, they may waste time building products that nobody needs. Technology for product analytics is critical to product exploration.

There are two different aspects of the product discovery method. It means gaining a thorough understanding of consumers and utilizing the awareness to create customers’ essential goods. To help product teams determine which functionality or goods to prioritize and develop, product discovery plays a crucial role, thus setting the stage for achieving product excellence.

What Is The History Of Product Discovery?

The advent of product discovery emerged in the early 2000s due to the then-standard approach of often years-long, requirements-steeped product creation procedure.

The Agile Manifesto was published In 2001, which offered a much-needed solution to inefficient, often-imprecise, documentation-driven product creation. The agile methodology was revolutionary since it allowed product teams to evolve in even smaller batch sizes. Ultimately, this trained them to create goods that consumers will then use. Around this time, UX design and design thinking is gaining traction, refocusing product production on consumers rather than internal company partners, and leading product teams to pose a brave, fresh question: What do customers want?

Why Is Product Discovery Important?

The process of product discovery is important because it lets teams create goods that are critical to their clients, not only good to have. An essential product satisfies the customer’s such a profound and true desire that they are powerless to survive without it. Examples vary from looking for Google to duct tape to smartphones. Many of them, as in “Google it,” evolve into verbs. The benefit here is obvious: needs enjoy greater demand and greater performance. Successful product discovery is the contrast between a desire and a ‘nice to have’ product. Josh Decker-Trinidad, a researcher and product designer at the General Assembly, says that when firms struggle to do so, it is mostly because they weren’t thorough enough in their customer research and based their product on assumptions not backed by evidence”.

Test your assumptions with product analytics: By summarizing your clients’ activities into juicy observations, a product analytics tool will supercharge the consumer discovery process.

Companies may waste enormous sums of capital, effort, and energy pursuing unattainable or unwanted targets without proving or disproving their assumptions. That is what has culminated in massive flops in product design such as New Coke, Apple Newton, and the Segway. Companies must perform product discovery that is focused on evidence to prevent product failure.

Why is Product Discovery Essential for Product Teams?

Cultivating a deeper customer understanding allows product teams to build goods that consumers like and need. The process helps teams to step past “nice to have” features and products and create products that fix an issue and become a real customer need.

Product discovery brings value to the product team, value to the market, e.g., not spending precious money chasing the wrong concepts and making goods that no one wants), and value to customers through providing something that they might very well feel important. The product discovery process means that product managers and teams are on the right track to prioritize and build a good product.

 How Do I Conduct Product Discovery?

Think outside of the house to perform or expand the product discovery process. That is, look to your clients outside of your four walls for guidance into how your goods can be designed. Your customers are the root of all reality for product discovery, and “Customers know more about their needs and context than we will ever know,” says Teresa Torres, Product Talk’s design teacher and founder. “The experts are our customers. They’re stronger than we are at determining if our approach is a match.

Most firms do not for two reasons, considering the obvious benefit of undertaking product discovery focused on customer studies. Second, it may be time-consuming to gather customer details and operate continuously to improve your customers’ knowledge. Second, a few products or communications staff members who perform the analysis are typically relegated to customer perspectives. Teams must capture more customer data and distribute the observations more evenly across the enterprise to perform world-class product discovery.

With product analytics, cut back on customer analysis time: Product analytics software automatically monitors customer activity so that you can analyze and research from your desktop.

The Three Steps Of Product Discovery

1. Challenge your assumptions

The first move in developing your product’s discovery process is to question the existing processes’ beliefs. Do the product campaigns, for instance, usually, come from the management committee top-down? Which suggests they consider what’s better for buyers, which they do not. Are features prioritized by the product team based on previous experience? That presumes that new customer experiences exceed their domain knowledge, which it does not. Get your team’s assumptions on the table, rephrase them as a hypothesis, and evaluate them with evidence.

2. Conduct empirical user research

There are two kinds of customer data to evaluate the assumptions with: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative data is anecdotal and derives through polls, customer interactions, and focus groups and typically tests consumers’ thoughts and intent. This knowledge allows organizations to respect their customers and begin to see their point of view.

Pro tip: To spread an empathetic awareness of your customer, engage both departments in interviews and qualitative data collection, from communications to engineering.

Quantitative data is mathematical and may come from research and user outcomes. When they apply to evidence-driven judgments, it’s the “data” people speak about, and it’s important for checking the legitimacy of the assumptions.

For example, a social media application assumes that it can improve communication by enlarging a ‘share’ press. If the team does not measure the outcomes against a control group first, anything they construct later on requires that role focus on possibly incorrect assumptions. This is a house of cards ready to be taken down. Untested assumptions distort the outcomes of architecture and result in bad results.

Product analytics can quickly test the assumptions: a successful framework for product analytics is built to capture and interpret consumer data to reach results instantly within a fraction of the time it takes to do it manually.

3. Create design artifacts

Artifacts for product discovery help businesses keep their user data at the top of their minds. They are ‘living documents’ and should be updated, enhanced, and referred to regularly throughout the process of product discovery. Three examples of artifacts for product discovery:

  • Journey map: This is a symbolic map of the user’s journey, with “actions” as the places to their goal along the road. The fact that these are based on empirical user research is critical. More often than not, one or two individuals create travel maps based on little more than experience and intuition. Inaccurate travel maps can drive businesses astray.
  • Empathy map: It is a four-quadrant client diagram in which businesses record what their clients believe, hear, see, and say that is linked to the challenges and opportunities of the client. This will help enhance a firm sense of how users feel about your products and services.
  • Consumer persona: A consumer persona is a user segment approximation, such as ‘power users’ or’ aspiring amateurs.’ Most people take the form of a catchy name followed by a list of demographics, psychographics, and behaviors that help businesses visualize the client as they design.

Your company runs on superior product discovery with stronger data exploration abilities and a handful of customer artifacts. Products based on actual customer data, analysis, and observations can produce much greater outcomes and will tip the product from the ‘good to have’ category to total need.

What Are The Key Steps In The Discovery Process?

  • Power up your customer empathy by understanding the underlying needs and feelings of customers.
  • Create a complete picture of your customer by crowdsourcing different perspectives across your team.
  • Listen—really listen. Suppress your natural urge to rush to a solution, and instead, ponder the customer’s root problem.
  • Try visual mapping to gain clarity.
  • Collect and organize customer feedback from various input channels (e.g., social media, email, customer service, user research, customer advisory board, etc.).
  • Be objective. Do potential solutions align with problems, or are you biased? Remember: Not every idea will stick.
  • Test your assumptions.

A Step-By-Step Guide For Conducting Product Discovery

Product board uses the Double Diamond approach for conducting product discovery, structured as follows:

  • Uncover the underlying user need
  • Understand
  • Define
  • Identify the optimal solution
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

Let’s break down each piece step-by-step.

Uncover the underlying user need

The process of product discovery begins with recognizing large problems that you want to address with your product. Now is the moment for the product team to focus on the larger picture, not at specifics, not at high-level priorities or themes.

In the case of a product board, a challenge could look like the following:

How do we encourage mid-market enterprises to make greater use of product boards?

It is also tricky to determine the best forms of difficulty. New product issues, when you operate with an open-ended blank canvas, are current. There are value-oriented and need-oriented problems that revolve around the customers’ existing desires and pressure points. There’s progress vs. technological challenges, then. Development problems are typically measurable. Maybe you’re attempting to enhance a statistic, such as customer retention, inside the product. Sometimes, technological difficulties are connected to product success.

You grasp and identify what you’re trying to tackle during the challenge identification level.

Understand

You have to consider the underlying consumer issues that you try to address for your product to identify challenges properly. Product teams focus extensively on quantitative and qualitative analysis at this point to find answers. User analysis, focus tests, observation, customer interviews, data analytics, competitive research, empathy visualization, and more are crucial tools and techniques to use.

Define

After you understand the needs of the user you are trying to address, you must then define them clearly. To do this, there are a few steps to take:

  • Nail down the problem: Aim to nail down one sentence covering the whole issue you are trying to solve. This helps you communicate with your team clearly and aligns them with a common cause. It will be hard to keep everyone focused if you formulate the issue loosely.
  • Validate the problem: Make sure that you are working on issues that need to be addressed. How bad do your users encounter the pain? What value will it add to tackling the pain?
  • Prioritize: In essence, you need to figure out which of the identified issues you should address first. Several popular frameworks are used to do this by product teams.

Most product teams use journey mapping, dive into the Five Whys or other similar methods, or perform a SWOT analysis to define problems clearly.

Identify The Optimal Solution

It is better to reframe them into parts that can be tackled after you isolate unique user issues.

It is necessary to reframe the wide problem described above and reduce it down to the following:

Mid-market companies face public portal restrictions when they tend to engage with many markets at once.

You ideate, prototype, and validate new solution ideas that you have prioritized with your team throughout the reframing process. All this is due diligence until they go into distribution to verify goods and features.

Ideate

You want to find out how you plan to fix the concerns of your customers. Through creativity drills and other ideation methods such as team brainstorming, mind mapping, storyboarding, and doing concept sprints, the team will be innovative.

Your team will assess their possible effect and viability after proposals are suggested, then prioritize which to prototype and deliver to customers.

Prototype

Prototypes allow teams to demonstrate and bring to life their ideas.

There are many different kinds of prototypes, including sketches, mockups, clickable prototypes, MVPs, or even using competitive/like products, but not limited to them.

The kind of prototype teams that choose to build depends on what they try to learn, what will need to be tested, and what open questions they still have.

Test

Testing decides whether the ideas presented are genuinely worthy of addressing the issue or not. A/B testing, client interviews, consumer testing, survey delivery, and product beta testing are common tools and techniques.

Present Solutions

At the solution point, nothing has been developed yet, but you can show proposals to partners and consumers. Notice that remedies are not inherently equal to characteristics.

Here’s a feasible alternative, going back to the example:

  • Let’s encourage customers to construct several portals to connect with and of their audiences differently.
  • It will require several iterations to get to a solution. The development team needs to make sure that they offer the best stuff to customers, after all. It would be important to present the idea to stakeholders (in product leadership, implementation departments, and cross-functional teams) to earn buy-in and collaboration.
  • It is possible that you will step into delivery at this point, but not with a finalized design. Around the margins, the solution is always hard.

Helpful tip

For internal departments and consumers to get the most out of them, development teams should codify common standards for using solutions.

Intercom has an outstanding product principle when it comes to this: it remains opinionated but versatile. You can build a solution and have an idea of the best way your customers can use it and build in adaptability so your customers can use it in the way that best suits their needs.

Build Excellence Into Your Product Discovery Process

Below is a description of how this product discovery process has evolved:

  • Challenge: How do we encourage mid-market firms to make more use of themselves?
  • Reframe the problem: Mid-market enterprises face public portal restrictions when they want to share/validate their views with several markets at once.
  • Identify a realistic solution: Let’s encourage customers to construct several portals to share/validate their concepts differently with their audiences.

We decided to share this structure because, rather than focusing on concerns, product teams often spend much of their time working on solutions. And that makes sense. With far fewer measures involved, it is an enticing shortcut. Skipping the experimentation loop will result in teams delivering the wrong items, resulting in goods and features that miss the target and go unused.

Using this framework and following its steps, our team has built an environment of continuous learning that benefits both our teams and users, increased transparency into our entire product management process, and involved a diverse set of stakeholders. We hope that in it you can find as much meaning as we have.

6 Effective Guiding Principles For Product Discovery

Begin with Empathy for Your Audience

If you don’t know who our audience is, we can’t get very far into discovery. In the world of products, that means our customers and our end-users. Typically, it means their coworkers or the staff at the company of their client.

Either way, we need to build empathy for the individuals who will use or be affected by our solutions to identify successful solutions. We need to know their requirements, points of pain, desires, desires, goals, and motivations. To understand what is working today and what is not, we need to work. We must explore divergent viewpoints. We need nuance and context to be understood. We need to avoid assuming or projecting. For us to listen and observe, we need to quiet our egos.

It’s easy to say we do this. In practice, it’s much harder to do consistently well.

Follow these tips to build empathy for your audience:

  • Just get specific. Imagine a single individual who represents your client or target user. If you’re acquainted with anyone unique, much better. I don’t want to define my target customer as a product head with my coaching business. That’s too big. My target customer is a product manager who already understands modern product discovery (i.e., agile, lean design thinking, OKRs, etc.) and is looking for assistance in these practices to up-skill their teams. I’m not going to market this style of operating to anybody. I’m no missionary here. If you are already on board with the discovery of modern products and only need help to get there, you are my ideal customer.
  • Ignore anyone that does not fit the perfect user or customer. The challenging thing is this. Every day, I learn from customers who want to assist in product management, not my ideal client. I would not have time to pursue the next tip if I wasted time dealing with them.
  • Obsessively learn about the desires and challenges of the target customer. To learn their background, do the job. Like, what’s their usual day? What are they grappling with? What are they going to love doing? What do they prefer not to do? Talk about their lives, not just about your product, to them every week. Do this week after week, and you can truly appreciate the end-user or customer than anyone else.

Explore the Problem Space Completely

Very many people frame discovery as a linear process. You launch a new project, study your target customer, plot out the issue room, and move on to generating and testing ideas. If only the universe were so clean and orderly.

Discovery is messy. It’s non-linear. Good discovery is continual. The day we avoid being curious about our clients is the day our rivals start keeping up.

No matter how much discovery we undertake, we’ll always have it wrong. We can’t truly comprehend the existence or perspective of another human being. We’ll never be willing to perform any analysis and just mark it over. There’s still something to explore. There’s still another nuance or another case to discover. This is why embracing continuous discovery methods is so necessary.

It’s quick to slip into the trap of relying on delivery until we’ve established a target solution. Yet, we need to leave the door open to other possibilities still. We constantly need to ask, “Are we still working on the most significant opportunity?” Do we truly comprehend the question we are solving? This week have we heard something that shocked us?”

The last query is a great sign that our customer’s conceptual model is not yet matched with their reality. And if you feel proud of yourself that you are not so much shocked, it is more possible that you are falling victim to confirmation bias than that you genuinely grasp your client’s environment.

Remain curious. Explore divergent views. Keep identifying and forming the room for problems.

Few ideas to get you started:

  • Keep interviews. If I’m dogmatic about something, product teams and their clients can hold weekly interviews. This speed frightens certain individuals. Yet over again, I’ve seen it. All other exploration trends bear suit as teams adopt this weekly habit. One of the simplest approaches to discuss the issue of space is questioning.
  • Listen actively to what you have gone wrong. It can be quick to slip into the pit of believing what you’ve heard is fact until you have a solid base of information for your customer. But the chances are that you found some stuff wrong. So I’m training teams to discover surprises. This helps counteract bias in confirmation.
  • Reframe, reframe, reframe, reframe. Framing the issue field is one of the most difficult tasks we do. And as we begin to learn more about our customers, our perception of the issue, space needs to be constantly reframed. A perfect way to experiment with various forms of presenting the issue space is defining and organizing openings on the chance solution tree.

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Map Your Way to Clarity

For most of us, visual synthesis is an under-developed skill. Yet, it soon becomes a superpower as we grow it. Human brains are incredibly effective at spatial thinking, and certain strong ideas are unlocked by digging into this.

I like mapping everything. Maps come in various shapes and sizes: maps of knowledge, maps of consumer experiences, maps of customer life, maps of tales, maps of procedures, maps of networks, etc.

I’ve previously written on how drawing allows one to think. It also allows us to align with a common understanding as a team. It’s better to ingest a visual than to grasp an essay. Maps force us to be more concrete than words. Mapping enables us to describe our communication.

For better use of mapping on your team, try these tips:

  • Start with maps of individuals. Have everybody on your team take the time to draw maps of their own. This enables the individual perspectives of everyone to surface. We all see the world differently from different perspectives, and when we create together, we want to leverage our unique experiences.
  • Align yourself around a shared map. This is one of the most important exercises that I have come across to understand a shared understanding quickly.
  • At various scopes, map. On one map, don’t stop. With different scopes, maps work well. Mapping the life of your customer. A typical map of the day. Map out a particular experience. For a specific use case, map their journey through your product. Map out a process behind the scenes that support the journey of the client.

Use Theory as Inspiration

The hype around innovation is easy to get caught up in. Because we can, we are reinventing new ways of doing things. We must avoid reinventing what is not broken, and we must remember to learn from those who have come before us.

If your innovation leads to a better solution, it’s great, but it just leads to a different solution all too often. Anything else is not necessarily better.

Google redesigned Google Calendar recently. It looks different, and we have all had to learn a new user interface, but as a result of the redesign, I can’t think of a single thing that works better. Are you able?

Don’t get me wrong now; calendars through innovation are ripe for disruption. There are a million things I wish I could do better with my calendar. But with their “innovative new design, Google didn’t address any of them.

How do we prevent innovation for the sake of innovation and instead innovate to meet our customers’ needs better?

They take a class on knowledge creation and sharing. For instance, they learn the difference between explicit and tacit knowledge. This means drawing on the concepts and theories they learn in their classes to inspire how they frame an opportunity or what alternatives they may produce. Explicit knowledge (e.g., knowing that Paris is the capital of France) is factual knowledge. In contrast, tacit knowledge is knowing how to do something (e.g., knowing how to swing a baseball bat). When one of our learners worked to support teams to communicate their information better with other teams, this idea may motivate them to explore. An employee may be unwilling to share their tacit knowledge, but he is more than willing to share his or her explicit knowledge.

It is possible to use this same Theory to inspire various solutions. The student may ask, “How could we encourage staff to share their explicit knowledge?” “as well as asking, “How can we encourage staff to share their tacit understanding?”

The first question could inspire alternatives such as “lunch and learning” or the sharing of white papers or blog posts, while the second question could inspire solutions such as apprenticeship programs or pairing.

First-principles are basic concepts or truths on which we can base our solutions. An engineer, for example, could base his solutions on the first principles of physics. We often base our solutions in the product world on psychology’s first principles if you have ever used cognitive prejudices to inspire solutions.

First-principles and Theory help us frame the issues we see, ensuring that we do not merely innovate for the sake of innovation but solve real problems instead. Throughout the process of discovery, they can also inspire solutions that provide value.

Try out these tips for those of you who have no experience drawing from first principles or using Theory as inspiration:

  • Broadly read. When you don’t know any theory or first principles, you can’t use Theory as inspiration or draw from first principles. I motivate product teams to read widely. Read about behavior in humans. Many disciplines are used: psychology, biology, sociology, linguistics, anthropology, philosophy, etc. Not only does this build up our repertoire of Theory and first principles from which to draw, but it also provides us with a rich context to feed our analogical reasoning and will help us find more creative solutions.
  • Do not reinvent the wheel. Be careful not to fall into the trap of Google Calendar. Before you redesign something, make your desired result clear. Ensure that it’s measurable. Identify particular opportunities you want to address with your redesign (i.e., needs, pain points, desires, wants). Hold yourself responsible for addressing and driving the desired outcome of those opportunities. Don’t make changes just because they want you. Innovate, reuse, and borrow from others elsewhere in areas where better ideas are required.
  • Distinguishing between human truths and the truths of technology. Human truths are cognitive biases and human nature ideas such as reciprocity and social contagion. Technology truths are items such as our smartphone over laptop choice or our ability to build internet memes that require the combination of words over photos. The truths about humanity are reluctant to shift. The truths of technology are quick to alter. As motivation, use human truths. In the short term, account for technical truths, but don’t assume them to remain constant over time.

Co-Create Solutions That Address The Unique Needs Of Your Audience

We leap to the first answer that comes to mind all too much. When we learn of a problem, we jump to fix it. Our brains are surprisingly effective at closing the circle. Yet, we need to take the time to make sure that our ideas are tailored to our clients’ unique requirements if we continue to find successful solutions.

The last statement sounds clear. But to ensure that works, it always requires more time than we expect.

It is quick to fall in love with the concepts we have. We prefer to cling to the stuff that worked for us in the past as we acquire more expertise in our fields. We fail to think, “How different is this situation?” We fail to continue by determining what makes the scenario special. And as we do, even though they are not a suitable fit for this specific case, we have a clear prejudice against our initial thoughts.

To avoid this pitfall, try these tips:

  • Map your solutions to specific possibilities. I want to use an opportunity approach tree to visually match the concepts of a solution to the real opportunities we learned in interviews with discovery. This means that we tackle actual needs. Taking the time to align concepts with demands visually means that distractions do not sidetrack us, and it encourages us to fine-tune our strategies in a customer-centered manner.
  • Get feedback early and regularly. To get feedback from your customers, don’t hesitate until it’s too late in the process. Have their feedback any step of the way. Don’t waste three weeks redesigning your mobile app, just when you are all finished, to receive user input. Get reviews as you build the smartphone app two to three days a week. Before you are ready, don’t be afraid to get reviews.
  • Let your customers design with you. Do not confine the role of your customers to feedback. Allow them to create with you. If their designs are not viable or feasible, don’t worry. You’re not searching for customers to tell you what to build. You are looking to figure out how they think about the issue. Co-creating with your customers helps you see how they can solve it independently, which is a strong inspiration for your solutions.

Surface And Test Underlying Assumptions

Whether you were motivated by The Lean Startup to experiment or whether you have been persuaded by design thinking to prototype the path to answers, all motivate you to evaluate your theories, not your concepts.

Often on product teams, this difference is overlooked. That’s why we see our most common method of testing as A/B testing. We’re designing our prototype to carry it out. But when you take the time to verify the hypotheses that need to be accurate for the product to be efficient, you can save a lot of time and energy and gain more about your tests and prototypes.

This requires some thought ahead, but in development, it can save you precious time and resources. Instead of merely discovering why anything would not work, you will also learn how to correct flawed ideas.

Seeing your assumptions can be hard. Here are tips to get you started:

  • Story map your idea. It’s tough to see our assumptions because we haven’t been precise enough. The mapping of stories forces you to be specific. To take effect, our product ideas require different actors (users and clients). Your story map will help you define those main behaviors because each action expects you to put the entire plan at risk if the participant is unwilling to do it.
  • Start with desirability assumptions. If anyone vital to the solution’s progress isn’t able to do their part, the plan will collapse. The product graveyards are riddled with excellent, easy-to-use technologies that no one wanted. To prevent this fate, begin with desirability.
  • Don’t forget about viability, feasibility, usability, and ethical assumptions. There is a tendency in certain teams against usability assumptions. “We are getting good at asking, “Will people use this? “But we have a much larger set of questions to consider. Our ideas often focus on sustainability, effectiveness, and ethical assumptions. Be sure all areas are surfacing and testing assumptions.

And One More Product Teams Unique Guideline

Our business environments enable us to specialize in silos and to function. We expect product managers to handle stakeholders, designers to plan, and code developed by software engineers. And while it’s accurate that all three of those items have to happen, they’re not enough to deliver great products.

A team effort is product development. While we each bring a diverse collection of skills and expertise to the team, we can win only by working together. This is another field that certain teams pretend to be stronger than they are.

You should focus on your team collaboration skills if the product manager takes all the choices or constantly gets into opinion fights on whether to create. When it comes to having the job finished, I tell my teams to divide and conquer yet come together when making decisions. It is the symbol of a team that is genuinely collaborative.

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