After testing many different methodologies, I have found that these principles are taken from design thinking, and are the best method to discover the right product for your business and customers.

By having a good discovery process you can be more confident you are building the right thing. A lot of time, energy and money can be spent building the wrong thing that might not be right for your target audience. And you might be targeting the wrong market. That is wasted energy and effort, your business cannot afford.

That is always what comes back to what’s good product managers, management is build the right thing for your audience, build the right thing for the customers. In this article I will explain the 5 steps to discover the right product to build for your business.

1. Understand the context

The “Understand” step is the first of the 5 steps for product discovery. During this phase, it is important to gain a shared understanding amongst your team, stakeholders and customers.

You want to make sure everyone is focusing on and discussing the same challenge, before starting to address it.

To begin, the team needs to have a shared background for the challenge. This can be done using different techniques such as a workshop where you interview experts within your organization, looking together at historical data from your product, or even recording customer interviews and reviewing the recordings as a group. You can of course use a combination of these techniques.

Questions you could ask yourself & the team:

  • Do I understand the problem that I’m facing?
  • Do I understand the challenge of my company?
  • Do we have a shared understanding as colleagues?

These questions and activities will help you get aligned, and learn from each other. Then once you have that understanding from the team, go and ideate. After aligning on the background, the team then needs to form a joint challenge statement. This needs to be a succinct and clear statement explaining what you are going to try and solve together.

2. Ideate

The Ideate phase is an opportunity to go big and wide, and create a variety of different ideas to potentially tackle the agreed on challenge statement. During the ideation activities, the team should focus more on how they could solve the challenge, rather than how the final idea will be delivered.

I encourage you to find ideation methodologies that work for you, there are great resources out there from IDEO, AJ and Smart, and more. These methodologies will help trigger your team to get creative.

During ideation, think of as many and big ideas as you want to solve the problem that you’ve already aligned on. Then you will have 10 to 20+ ideas on the wall, or on the Miro board if you are working digitally. These ideas will likely be rough sketches to articulate individual ideas to the team.

However, as a small team, we’re unlikely to go and do these 10 or more ideas, it’s time to converge and try and be a bit more realistic after being wild with your ideas. During the converging phase you will narrow down that list of 10+ ideas into a small list of ideas, normally between 1 and 3, you will eventually prototype.

3. Converge in a few ideas

At the end of the ideation phase you and the team will have a number of ideas sketched out, that could potentially solve the challenge.

Together as a team pick one or a combination of the best ideas you agree to take to the prototyping phase. The solution you select should be the idea/s that have the highest potential to solve the challenge statement.

Using the example 20 ideas, you need to take a realistic number of ideas forward. When you are narrowing down the list try to use as much evidence as possible with your decision making, perhaps helpful evidence surfaced during the understanding phase? Ask yourselves what is realistic for us to build in the next weeks and months? Then, once you’ve decided, from the 20 you want to bring 3 ideas forward to the prototype.

Once you have chosen the ideas to take on prototyping, it’s time to build your prototype!

Related: Watch the Design Thinking for Scalability Workshop by Candelaria Narvaez

4. Create a prototype

The selected solutions from the converge step will be taken forward to create prototypes. Depending on the solution you can create a prototype in different ways, if it’s a digital solution you can use design software with a program like Figma to create a prototype, though this is not always necessary.

You can also use a paper prototype or build a manual service to test out the chosen solution. While these prototypes will be rudimentary in nature, they will allow you to fully experiment with your proposed solution and validate if it solves the challenge statement during testing.

When you are creating the prototype, remember what you are really trying to test. This is because after testing the prototype you need to judge if it was successful or not.

During the prototyping phase it’s also a good time to prepare the questions you would want to ask your test participants when presenting the prototype.

Finally for setting up the testing phase you want to arrange between 5-8 test participants to review your prototype, this is a significant enough number of testers to judge a prototype. Ideally these participants are your customers, or people matching your customer’s profile.

Related: Watch the How to execute “Jobs to be Done” user testing workshop

5. Test your prototype

The final step for product discovery is testing. This is your opportunity to take your prototype and present it to real customers or potential users. This will allow you to gain insights into your solution based on reactions and experience using the prototype.

This can be done in person or using remote testing software, depending on the location of your team and your customers.

​​The test you have setup during the prototype phase, should validate whether the ideas that you converge on and prototype is a good thing to go ahead and build. When participants give you positive feedback and complete the tasks you give them as you expect, it’s a good sign you are on the right track with the prototype and you can take these results to your team with confidence.

In some cases it could be that the results are not as positive as you would have hoped. However do not be disheartened by this, it is a great thing to learn so early that you are not quite on the right track with your prototype. When getting such results, it could be that maybe you need to go back to the drawing board, maybe to maybe there’s other things on that 20 ideas that were better, and you just need to test them again. Alternatively there may be something you missed in the understanding phase.

Therefore if your test results are not positive, and you are not sure what to do next, perhaps looping back through the understand, ideate and converge phases may bring you to a better performing prototype.

Depending on the size of the challenge, is the amount of time I invest in doing these exercises. So if it’s a small challenge, I try to keep these phases really short. If it’s a big challenge, for example it would affect your company for the next two years, I would recommend not rushing the discovery process, and follow it properly. It will save you time in the long run.

More often than not, the results of the testing phase are never perfect. Normally parts of the prototype perform well, and others not so well. All of these are key lessons for you and the team. Using these key lessons you can validate if the prototype meets the challenge statement, and if necessary you can also update your prototype before building it for real.

Conclusions

Using these five discovery phases will get your team well on the way to discovering the right things to build for your customers and your business. Each step will help you stay focused on the key goal, and by testing your prototypes you will quickly get the validation you need to know if you are on the right path.

If you like what you read and would like to find out more, please get in touch with me on GrowthMentor.