Discovery, Product

My Top 3 learnings from Teresa Torres’ Talk “The What and Why of Continuous Discovery”

Summary: My personal Top 3 learnings from “The What and Why of Continuous Discovery”

  • Meet your end-users as often as possible. This means at least once per week to avoid the “curse of knowledge” bias and to create a co-create mindset.
  • Automate your recruiting process by either asking your customers directly when they are using your product or by involving your customer-facing colleagues more.
  • Avoid asking direct questions. Instead, try encouraging your customers to tell you a story about how they used the product in the past. Don’t forget to listen carefully.

This week Product Tank Berlin and Hamburg joined forces to host an event with Teresa Torres about her newly published book Continuous Discovery Habits.

The difference between a project-based discovery and a continuous discovery is the timeline. In my work, I’m used to project-focused approaches. You get funded for a specific time period and you are doing a discovery upfront. Afterward, teams start delivering and validating the product. The discovery is a one-time thing or only performed when big strategic decisions need to be made.

Teressa Torres emphasizes the necessity to move from a project-based mindset to a continuous mindset since products are never done. In addition, the world is constantly changing around us.

The definition of a continuous discovery is the following:

At a minimum, weekly touchpoints with customers,

By the team building the product,

Where they conduct small research activities,

In pursuit of a desired outcome

Teresa Torres

So far, so good – everything a product manager wishes for is in this definition: customer-centric approach, whole product team involved in researches, and focus on the outcome rather than output. But let’s have a look at the nuances of this definition to understand the key learnings.

1. Once per week

I had to read the statement multiple times: Once per WEEK, at a MINIMUM! The only time I was able to be in touch with end-users that often was when we were building internal software. Otherwise, we were faced with a lot of excuses and blockers. But being in touch with your customers often makes a lot of sense, because

We make product decisions every day.

Teresa Torres

And also our day-to-day decision can benefit from customer input, even if it is naming a button. In addition, we are often trapped in our expert knowledge about the product and forget that our customers are not experts. Consequently, likely, we are not making decisions in our customers’ interest anymore. Meeting your end-users often can help you to avoid this bias.

Furthermore, meeting your customer often can help you to get into a co-creation mindset instead of just following a validation mindset. Of course, validating your product is very important. The main challenge here is that we get the feedback again late in the process after we have perfect designs and written code. A co-creation mindset helps you to get the feedback even earlier in the process when you think about how the product requirements work or on your pencil sketches so that you can make changes easier.

But how do I get access to customers every week?

2. Automate the recruiting process

The answer to this question is to automate the recruiting process because

The biggest barrier to interviewing every week is recruiting.

Teresa Torres

The goal is to have interviews in your calendar without you being actively involved in scheduling them. To achieve this goal two approaches stuck with me:

  1. You can recruit people while they are visiting your product by integrating a single question like “Do you have x minutes to talk with us?” into the workflow. In case they are interested you can direct them to a scheduling software or ask for the phone number.
  2. You can get your customer-facing colleagues, e.g. support, account managers, etc., involved by joining their calls or meetings and ask for some minutes at the end of a meeting when they are talking to customers. As soon as they feel more comfortable with you being present in their meetings, you can create a decision tree to help the customer-facing colleagues to decide when to ask for an interview, e.g. “If a customer has a question about a feature, ask for an interview.”

But how do I get the most out of an interview?

3. Tell me a story

Like when you are recruiting new people for an open position the best strategy is to ask for a story about the past because

Humans are particularly bad at answering direct questions out of context.

Teresa Torres

Instead of using direct questions starting with when, who, what, etc. rephrase your question like “Tell me about the last time you were using our product”. Your task is to actively listen and extract the answers to your direct questions. In my opinion, the biggest benefit is that you also get insights into customers’ behavior, pain points, and potentially undiscovered needs.