14/30: Key Elements of Product Discovery
Product discovery is widely misunderstood, often ignored and left behind, and sometimes actively blamed for all the bad things in product development, and even business. Let’s break this down and try to understand what the problem is.
Let’s start with an explainer.
What is product discovery?
Product discovery is the process and accompanying set of practices designed to de-risk product development.
This is achieved by:
User research (using everything from interviews, to surveys, focus groups, market research, etc.)
Problem framing (sometimes called “problem discovery”)
Solution ideation (also called “solution discovery”)
Solution validation (resulting in prototypes and variety of other ways to test ideas)
All of which happens before we ever build the product!
Product discovery combines various techniques coming out of design thinking, psychology, interaction and service design, and quantitative and qualitative research methods.
And it requires multiple functional perspectives.
We often talk about the “product trio” made up of the product manager, product designer, and tech lead who engage in all discovery activities together so that they can evaluate a variety of risks that require functional expertise: business viability, technical feasibility, usability and desirability, and overall value for the users and the business.
So what’s the problem?
Product discovery is meant to go hand-in-hand with product development. Teams that run regular, ongoing, continuous product discovery also typically ship on a weekly, daily, or even hourly basis.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies have set up a Waterfall-style process where discovery is a loooooooong and drawn out research step at the end of which a “design spec” is handed down to the product team.
Typically in these environments, the PM and product designer work in isolation, without any tech team involvement. Sometimes all this is done by the lone product hero.
This is bad practice and results in incomplete discovery work, poor product results, and bad business outcomes.
Great product discovery is a collaborative exercise by the entire product team that helps de-risk product development and results in the regular shipping of small chunks of value to users and the business.