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Product Validation Guide

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5 Major problems of product discovery

Maria João Ferreira

On our first blog post about this topic, we wrote about what the product discovery process is, its goals and its main activities.

This time we want to go a bit further, sharing some of the obstacles and difficulties that we have when we are working on this with our clients.

1. Ideas from new products or features coming from the product/marketing team or other people in the company

Many companies and teams work like that! They have a lot of ideas for new products or features because they are aware of the industry trends or they have a lot of market knowledge, so they know what to build next.
The teams think they are the experts and that they know their customers, however, when the product launches, things don't go the way they thought they would.

Yes, you can have a lot of market knowledge, you can know your customers, but you also know that human behaviour is complex and it's hard to find out what people want.
So, you have to know what problems they have and out of those, which are worth the effort to pursue.
From these interactions with the clients, ideas for new products and possible new features will appear, and you'll a clear idea of what to work on next.

And no, you shouldn't use product discovery to validate your pre-existing ideas (you can, but you'll risk having an enormous bias all throughout the process). You have to focus on problems and not on solutions. For every solution you think of, there should be a problem worth solving, relevant to your clients.

2. Not having the "discovery mindset"

It can be hard to convince people to adopt the "Discovery mindset". Many people think if they do "too basic" questions it will look like they don't grasp the problem or that they don't have a clear view of the product and what to prioritize.
We aren't telling you to play dumb, quite the opposite: be smart! With this mindset, people will not take the first idea as the best one, and any pre-assumptions they have will not lead them.

The discovery mindset is about:

  • having an open mind;
  • not being afraid of making questions and testing only the things that matter;
  • being curious about the context of the product.

3. Outsourcing your product discovery process

Discovery is about learning as fast as you can about your client and their problems. If you outsource the process to a company, you will not learn as much as them, just by reading all the interviews and reports.

Companies like us can help you to start the process and run it with you, but you also have to be involved. Meaning: direct contact with the clients, prototype with us and validate everything.

If you work in a corporate environment and you have an innovation department or innovation spinoff the problem is similar. You are limiting the knowledge to one department, you will only receive the insights, and that's not the same if you get your hands dirty and actually participate in the process.
Innovation arises from collaboration!

4. Team working in silos

Discovery is cross-functional. It requires a blend of skills - product, design, developing, marketing, you name it - which means that the discovery team should be everyone that is involved in developing a product: product managers, designers, engineers, etc.

It's very common to have the product and customer teams involved in the interviews with clients, then the design team dealing with prototyping, and when we want to experiment we call the engineers. This is entirely wrong and a waste of time!

Everyone should be involved in the learning phase and have first-hand communication with clients. Moreover, all the information developed during the discovery process should be available to everyone.
Together, the team will be able to represent different solutions better and understand what's possible or not and, in the end, they will build a product that truly meets the clients and the businesses expectations.

5. Not closing the discovery cycle

The title for this problem might be misleading: "closing" usually means terminating, putting an end to something. But the discovery cycle never ends, and not being aware of this might kill most of the value that it provides to you and your customers.

You've worked closely with your your peers scouring client interviews for relevant problems, validated your possible solutions with them, got everyone on board designing and building the best implementation to fit the clients' desires, tested it to exhaustion and, at the end, gave everyone a pat on the back and a "Mission Accomplished" badge. This might be one way to look at it, but to us, it's the wrong way. When you launch, the work has just begun.

Right before you launch, you have to understand that this is merely the beginning of whatever is to come - you have to setup success metrics to understand how well the solution actually performs, you have to adapt or create channels to collect actionable feedback from your latest changes, and, most importantly, you must collect all this information and feed it back into the Discovery cycle, in a continuous fashion. Whatever you learn before, during, and after a new feature launch, is valuable information that will inform your future decision-making - don't let it go to waste. And if this cycle was a success, it's time to close the loop and start it again.

Creating insights from Discovery is not easy and it takes time to do it right. But keep in mind that:

  • The primary goal is to learn as fast as you can and bring insights into the team;
  • With the right mindset and a cross-functional team, you will be able to build something that adds value to the clients and the business;
  • Discover is an ongoing process and not just a project phase, the team should be learning more about their clients every week.

If you think that product discovery can be beneficial for your product, don't hesitate to contact us, we would love to help you!


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