Building better products through continuous product discovery
This piece is an excerpt from our ebook, The Product Discovery Playbook.
The most effective product teams constantly identify, test, and validate new ideas throughout a product’s lifetime—without sacrificing product delivery. Here’s how you can build a continuous product discovery practice in your organization.
Discovery isn’t just a box you can check—product teams can unlock greater value in their work by uncovering new ideas and testing their value in an ongoing process.
Continuous product discovery is the sustained process of identifying, testing, and validating ideas as part of a product team’s everyday work.
Instead of working to uncover valuable product ideas before building a solution, teams should create a sustained practice of rapid experimentation and discovery. By making incremental changes over time, teams can bypass long software delivery cycles and solve real user problems in less time.
Why you need to do continuous discovery
Practiced correctly, continuous product discovery makes your product team more efficient and impactful. It’s easier to keep the entire organization aligned around your product vision and strategy, deliver new features and products with confidence they’ll be well-received by customers, and achieve Product Excellence.
How we do continuous discovery at Productboard
At Productboard, we think of continuous discovery like a wedge. Teams begin at the wide end of the wedge, with a broad range of possible ideas they could tackle and directions they could head.
At the other end of the wedge, you have a business or product goal you’re trying to achieve. For example, one of our internal objectives might be to increase the customer retention rate for small businesses using Productboard, with a goal of increasing our retention rate by 10%.
For each idea we test or discovery activity we undertake as we move down the wedge, we continuously ask two questions:
- Are we meeting this outcome?
- If not, how can we iterate towards that outcome?
Over time, the answers to those questions yield a framework for performing discovery activities, collecting insights, and distributing that learning across the organization in real-time.
Make collecting and sharing insights an organization-wide effort
In the typical organization, the people who interface directly with customers outnumber product managers 20 to 1 or higher—and they all have valuable input to share.
The problem? Many struggle to scale that feedback collection loop beyond the walls of the product team—especially when it comes to product discovery.
In an effort to combat this, we use our own product management system to centralize product ideas, requests, and feedback from many sources, log them in a single searchable repository, and help identify trends around what users really need. This avoids having the product teams become the bottleneck for discovery efforts.
Once we’ve collected our product discovery insights in a central location, product leadership works to share those insights across each product team. Say you have multiple teams using continuous discovery to learn about the same group of customers, but those teams are executing on different features or products. By collecting all your learnings in a central location, all teams can benefit from the discovery work being performed by other teams.
Perform small activities regularly to help you learn faster
Making a habit of performing bite-sized discovery activities can help early-stage startups lacking dedicated product discovery resources to continue learning over time.
Teresa Torres discusses the power of co-creation and regular interactions in her 2017 talk on continuous discovery:
“We make product decisions every day. We don’t want them to be guesses … When you can get fast answers, you stop guessing and you start learning. This is how we get to great products.”
Our advice to fast-growing product organizations: Don’t overthink your discovery efforts. Here’s where to start:
- How might you talk to prospective customers every week?
- How might you talk to current customers every week?
- How can you demonstrate a new prototype every week?
- What’s one discovery experiment you can run every week?