Discovery Part II: Single Steps

black concrete road near green trees

In the last post on discovery, I wrote about why discovery is important and summarized some thoughts inspired by Teresea Torres. The next question then is what does it take to execute on this premise?

Several factors come together to make this work. In my experience, one of the most important characteristics of a product manager is their critical thinking ability. In his book “How We Think” John Dewey describes the essentials of critical thinking as “the ability to maintain a state of doubt while conducting systemic protracted inquiry.” Good product management is about tirelessly thinking critically and asking “How might we?” at every turn. Armed with your critical thinking capacity, here are some other thoughts to remember in implementing customer feedback.

1. Discipline – There will always be a good reason to do something else. There’s too much going on. Too many issues, not enough time for everything. Too many meetings [still struggling with this one]. Making this a priority isn’t easy. Like many things such as health, fitness, or simply making your bed every day, it’s easy to put off. But as Jocko Willink wrote, discipline equals freedom. This must be a priority organizationally for really rad innovative ideas to emerge. Absent innovation, you lose relevance and the chances of sustaining a business long term suffer.

2. Size the client interactions – Doing small frequent meetings is much better for a couple of reasons. One, by having frequent interactions, you don’t have to answer all of your research questions at once. Two, as you learn more, you can quickly validate ideas because you’re continually talking with clients.

3. Frame the questions properly – When nomads only asked where to find water, they were destined to a life of aimless wander just to survive. When they asked “How can we bring the water to us?” they shifted a paradigm and thus their destiny. Wicked problems have multiple solutions. Thinking about how you frame the question will maximize the time spent asking them.

To stay relevant, innovative change must happen and a prerequisite to innovation is Continuous Discovery. Next up, some other points to keep in mind to optimize the time spent in discovery.

*Note, this series is a summary of thoughts inspired and covered in much more detail by Teresa Torres in her book “Continuous Discovery Habits: Discover Habits that Create Customer Value and Business Value” – a must read for anyone working in the product space!

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