Continuous Discovery Habits – Teresa Torres
Continuous Discovery Framework
Begin with the end in mind. Decide on the main business outcomes that require discovery.
Assemble the team, a trio (ideally) made of a product manager, a designer, and an engineer.
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To reach the desired outcome(s), a product trio must discover and explore the opportunity space. This is done using continuous interviewing and experience mapping.
Opportunities are constantly evolving and being ranked.
Finally, discover the solutions that will address those opportunities and thus drive the desired outcome.
Opportunities (Not Problems)
We are taught that products have to solve problems to be valuable (the vitamin vs. aspirin analogy). But the best products (Disney, Facebook) started without a clear problem to solve.
Opportunities encompass customer needs, pain points, and desires. Think of opportunities, not problems.
Be aware: the opportunity space is infinite. So the core job of the product team is not only discovering the opportunities but framing them in a way that makes them actionable.
The Opportunity Solution Tree
It is a simple way to visually represent the path one may take to reach a milestone. It is the main system of record for tracking the discovery process:
The root of the tree is the desired business outcome
Next are the opportunities, the needs, and desires of the customers we can piggyback on
Next is the solution space. This is what we are considering building.
Below are the assumption tests
“Whether Or Not?” vs “What Else?”
“Should we build this feature?” is a question product managers ask themselves a lot. It’s a mistake.
Instead, develop a “compare and contrast” mindset. Ask instead, “Which of these customer needs is more important?”
Instead of falling in love with your first idea, ask, “What else can we build?”
Types Of Outcomes
Managing by outcome is only as good as the defined outcome. There are 3 types, starting from the general to the actionable:
- Business outcomes start with financial metrics(revenue, costs) or market share.
- Product outcomes. Measure how the product drives value.
Best Practices For Setting Outcomes
They are negotiated between the team of designers, product & engineering people on one hand, and the leadership.
Ambitious outcomes work better than SMART goals.
Some learning missions should proceed with performance outcomes. “Improving retention is a useless goal if you don’t understand what causes the churn”.
No individual outcomes. They have to be felt by a multidisciplinary product team.
Don’t chase too many outcomes. One or two per quarter should be enough.
Visualize what you know: Experience Map
It represents an artifact that helps a team uncover opportunities. It starts with a question related to the outcome (for example, “how do people entertain themselves with videos?” if the goal is to increase time spent with a streaming app):
Each member of the team shares a doodle of the answer from the user perspective
Drawings not words
Compare images and co-create a shared experience map
Isolate individual moments and connect them with arrows
Keystone Discovery Habit: Continuous Interviewing
Customers don’t know what they want, but talking to them is still useful. “What needs, pain points, or desires matter the most?” is the fundamental question.
Instead of direct questions, ask users to share stories about their experience. We lie to ourselves all the time so direct questions are unreliable
Have interviews every week. Even 5 minute ones. Productize scheduling by asking people who are using your product
It should not be the responsibility of one team member. Everyone should participate
Build a simple database with interviews: name, picture, a memorable quote, insights & opportunities
The insights from interviews should allow a product team to evolve a map of opportunities that could be considered for solutions:
The map is presented as a tree. Some parent opportunities can have multiple nodes. The product team needs to combine similar ones or maintain a hierarchy.
Each opportunity can have a count of how many times it came up during interviews.
Ideally, an opportunity should match a step in the experience map so everyone understands it better.
No matter how disciplined the team is, the map will be messy. Embrace the messiness. Don’t try to make it more scientific than it needs
Discovering the Solution Space
Once the product team decides to pursue an opportunity, solutions can be considered:
Avoid brainstorming – an illusion of group productivity. Groups generate a few similar mediocre ideas. The best ideas are generated alone and discussed as a group.
Ideally, you should have 10-15 solutions per opportunity.
Each proposed solution comes with hidden assumptions that need to be understood and tested against.