Product Discovery is the (continuous) phase where we find out if the product or service we wish to build is the right one.

Most Agile methods focus mainly on the Delivery, i.e. building something in the right way. This focus often leads to us assuming we already know what should be built (because we have a lot of biases as humans) and we start building as quickly as possible. Sadly, this usually turns out to be a colossal waste of time and effort, the product ends up being unused or simply unprofitable. What we lack is something to bring the focus to Discovery before we start building. In most cases, it’s better to build something that fits the market better than the competitors, even if they were first.

I have created a model that is taking a stab at solving this problem.

In any kind of Product Discovery, we must start with understanding the problem we want to solve. If we haven’t understood the problem, starting out on building a solution too soon will make it very hard to steer away from that path when we realised it is the wrong one. If we understand what the problem is, it is much easier to find possible good solutions, which is what we’ll do next. This is illustrated in the User Experience model (UX is one kind of Discovery) ’Double Diamond’ from the British Design Council. I’ve changed it a little bit in my model, by renaming the triangles in the two diamonds.

In the first diamond, we explore the problem area to see what kind of problems there are (for instance through user research) and then we structure what we found so that we can clearly define what our most important problems are (for instance in a persona or user journey). In the second stage, we can innovate possible solutions (for instance through design studio and sketching methods) and validate them so that we’ll find the best one (through usage testing). Of course, this model is iterative, so that we will go back and forth between understanding the problem and understanding the solutions.

The User Experience domain have traditionally been pretty good at Discovery work, but we will get the most effective product or service through the combination (or compromise) between:

  • Viability, a profitable and sustainable business model, the business value
  • Desirability, a user needs-fulfilling solution, the user value
  • Feasibility, a practically and technically reasonable and sustainable solution

Thus, when discovering the what product or service to create, these aspects need to be actively taken into consideration.

I have created a template for this, using the words explaining the ’Double Diamond’ combining it with these three aspects of effective product innovation.

Now, the only thing we will need to do when we start our product or service innovation endeavours is to think about and try to fill every cell in this template with an appropriate activity. For instance, here’s the typical UX approach that I described above:

What we can see in the last figure is that we have empty spaces. Now it is up to you to decide if we should take that risk or if we should find ways to fill them to ensure we are actually building the right product, not only for the user, but for the organisation as well … oh, and that it is possible. 🙂

Read more about how in my Product Discovery book.

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