Discovery Part I: It’s Not A Destination

empty gray road under white clouds

For decades, most companies have focused more on delivery than discovery when building products. The code, test, deploy part of the process gets the lion’s share of the attention and the product teams are focused on timelines and milestones instead of actual outcomes. But even those that recognize the need for discovery often view it as a “one-time” exercise at the beginning of a project.

Products though, aren’t static. Customer needs and their surroundings evolve over time and the product must adapt to continue to create customer value and ultimately business value. To meet that need discovery must happen continually and regularly. Customer-centric development is about infusing the customer’s ideas and feedback into everything and not going back to that delivery-only way of thinking.

A prerequisite to making this approach is to have the product team members adopt the right mindset. In her Continuous Discovery training and book, Teresa Toerres lays out the principles of this mindset as well as any I’ve ever read. The mindset looks like this:

  1. Outcome-oriented – Success is defined has how much value we create and not how much code we ship.
  2. Customer-centric – We’re building something to serve the needs of a customer so we create business value and not the other way around.
  3. Collaborative – A product team is a collaboration. It shouldn’t be a siloed process where one function hands off something to the next. Think basketball not golf.
  4. Visual – Spatial reasoning is a powerful cognitive concept that can be leveraged through visual artifacts like prototypes, diagrams and wireframes with even the lowest fidelity.
  5. Experimental – Be open minded to ideas but test them like a scientist would.
  6. Continuous – Discovery shouldn’t be done at the beginning of a project only but woven throughout the development process.

More to come on how to make this happen.

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