Making mistakes in product discovery can lead to problems in delivery. Here, we show you how to avoid them.
6 benefits of continuous product discovery
Continuous product discovery is an important element of making sure your product remains successful.
If product discovery is like making sure your foundations are solid, continuous product discovery is equivalent to regular maintenance and improvement.
It’s so important, in fact, we identified not doing continuous discovery as one of the worst mistakes you can make in the product discovery process.
So, what exactly are the benefits of doing continuous product discovery?
Let’s dive in!
Biases are an unavoidable part of our everyday lives. You could even go as far as to say they’re what makes us human.
Yet, biases can be potentially fatal to your product and ultimately, your company.
The question is which common biases should you look out for when developing your product? And what can you do to minimize risk?
Continuous product discovery is a handy process to catch and address biases and faulty assumptions that may crop up in your product and then making the necessary corrections.
Let’s first explain some of the most common biases and how they might affect your product.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our beliefs while simultaneously filtering out information that contradicts them.
We’re more likely to ignore negative feedback about our product or product idea even though it might help avoid failure because it conflicts with our preconceived vision.
Then there’s escalation of commitment, when we continue the same behavior (e.g. investing in a product or product idea) even though we’re facing progressively more negative outcomes the longer we continue.
Doubling down on a project or idea that’s just not working is the biggest mistake you can make.
Possibly the worst bias is the curse of knowledge.
The curse of knowledge is the incorrect assumption that everyone else knows as much about a given topic as you do.
The curse of knowldege
This makes it very difficult for you to relate to their lack of knowledge and answer their questions because you assume the information is common knowledge.
We’ve all at some point been both the expert, dumbfounded by someone who doesn’t know something basic and the novice trying to make heads and tails out of something we’ve just started learning about.
Product managers and developers aren’t immune to the curse, either.
In fact, they’re especially vulnerable to it as not addressing it and adapting their approach can lead to their product failing commercially.
Every product manager or developer worth their salt has deep expertise about their product but their customers don’t.
Customers don’t know every line of code by heart and don’t see the hours that you and your team have put into perfecting your product.
They only see what’s in front of them and if your product is difficult to use the quality of your code and design won’t matter – it’ll fail.
So how does continuous product discovery help minimize biases?
It’s simple – regularly analyzing user feedback, conducting research and, crucially, acting on it ensures that your product is centered around your users.
You may have heard the expression “sunlight is the best disinfectant” – biases in our work, when pointed out, become obvious.
Correcting them, however, requires being open to changing your vision – continuous product discovery isn’t just a framework you employ, it’s a fundamental shift in mindset.
Meets your users’ evolving needs
Your users’ needs will inevitably evolve over the lifecycle of your product. You have to be there to meet those needs if you want to ensure success and continued relevance.
Product discovery, in general, attempts to answer the question: “Why should we build it?” as opposed to product delivery which attempts to answer the question: “How should we build it?”
Continuous product discovery can be framed as an answer to a slightly different question: “What else should we build and why?”
Failing to keep pace with your users and not evolving your product in sync with them will result in them finding alternatives that will better cater to their needs.
Jonathan Widawski, co-founder and CEO of Maze (a product discovery platform), summed up what continuous product discovery is about:
“it’s the belief that a product is a living, breathing thing and that users are central to shaping it.”Jonathan Widawski, Maze CEO & founder
Digital products in particular have to constantly evolve in order to stay relevant and competitive.
Let’s take a look at Google’s approach, for example.
Google rolled out 10 confirmed major updates to their search engine algorithm in 2022, the same number of significant updates as in 2021.
Source: Search Engine Land
But those are just the major updates. Google made over 5,000 improvements and tweaks to their search algorithm in 2021 alone.
And these are only updates to one of Google’s products.
While you’re unlikely to need to make as many tweaks to your product as Google does, doing continuous product discovery will allow you to anticipate whichever tweaks you’ll need to make.
Collecting and acting on customer feedback consistently ensures your product stays fresh and doesn’t stagnate and fall behind the competition.
Adopting continuous discovery expedites and systematizes this process, ultimately making it easier and less time-consuming overall.
Helps you keep up with new opportunities and trends
Keeping pace with new trends in your industry and correctly identifying new opportunities to grow and expand your business is key to sustained growth and success.
Let’s imagine you’re itching to refresh your app and you’re wondering which current app design trends you should be paying attention to.
Continuous product discovery helps you pick out which trends to follow based on your customers’ needs and wants.
It makes no sense to simply follow every trend as it comes along.
Continuous discovery helps you discern fleeting trends from more enduring ones.
And that can mean the difference between being perceived as trendsetters rather than trend chasers.
It helps you identify new opportunities for expansion and growth, too.
Identifying and picking opportunities to seize is one of the pillars of continuous product discovery.
Possibly the most famous example of a missed business opportunity in recent history is Blockbuster’s refusal to buy Netflix for $50 million in 2000.
Netflix’s directors were almost laughed out of the room after making that offer.
And yet, in 2023 Blockbuster is a half-forgotten memory while Netflix continues to stay relevant in our cultural zeitgeist.
Stories like this one serve to illustrate the necessity of conducting thorough and regular market research and identifying and capitalizing on new opportunities, especially when you’re at the top of your field.
You can avoid these sorts of scenarios by employing continuous product discovery. Blockbuster didn’t have that luxury.
Continuous discovery identifies not only new features you could add to your existing products but can also be the first step in the creation of a brand new product.
The insights you collect from your customers and the market research you end up doing are invaluable information for exploiting new opportunities and trends to your advantage.
Leveraging them to grow your business is a key benefit you get from employing continuous product discovery.
Allows you to quickly adapt to changes
These past few years have been turbulent, to put it mildly. Adaptability and flexibility are key to ensuring success in a shifting business environment.
Pandemics, supply chain issues, wars and geopolitical realignments all have serious effects on the economy.
Navigating these obstacles and adapting to new realities on short notice is an absolute necessity to ensure your continued survival, success and growth in such an environment.
The VUCA world concept summarizes what you can expect and will have to adjust to in these tumultuous times:
Bob Johansen, who first adapted the VUCA concept to businesses in 2009, also created the inverted VUCA model as a framework for responding to these challenges:
All of the above listed values are also key to successful continuous product discovery.
You need to have a clear vision of what your product will do and how it will evolve when faced with external disruptions.
We’ve discussed the importance of understanding your customers and their needs in the previous section.
Being clear about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it is key to designing a coherent and user-friendly product.
Lastly, being able to adapt on the fly and on very short notice will allow you to more efficiently overcome all the challenges you’ll face in the VUCA world.
Continuous product discovery is an effective tool to use when tackling the aforementioned obstacles.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of the market, being in touch with your customers and processing the feedback you receive will be invaluable resources when you need to adapt to changing market conditions.
Of course, it’s not a miracle cure-all but doing continuous discovery will leave you in a good position to address whichever hurdles you may encounter.
Expands your team’s knowledge base
Stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning new skills is invaluable to your professional growth and development.
Continuous product discovery offers an opportunity for your team members to continually expand their knowledge and understand your customers and their needs better.
This will help them be better at their usual tasks.
Continuous product discovery, just like the standard discovery process, is a collaboration between the product team, designers and developers.
Collaboration between the product team
Each and every one of them is a stakeholder with a vested interest in seeing your product succeed.
Giving them an insight into the concerns of your customers and how they can act on that feedback to improve your product will inform their decision making going forward.
Getting your entire team to buy into continuous product discovery can be a challenge, though.
Developers, in particular, might struggle to see why they should participate in continuous discovery.
It’s only natural that they’d want to keep doing what they’re good at and what they love doing.
However, not involving developers in the discovery process is one of the worst mistakes you can make.
Teresa Torres, who wrote the seminal book on continuous product discovery, shared a few tips on how to get buy-in from your developers:
“We need to create an onboarding ramp—just like we do with customers—for our engineers into discovery.
While I’ve met lots of engineers who don’t want to be involved in discovery, I’ve never met an engineer who didn’t have an opinion about what they build.
Engineers push back on requirements all the time.
They have very strong opinions about what they should be building and how it should be built.
So you have to create a culture where you make decisions about what to build based on what you learn during discovery.
If you want to have an opinion about what we build, you need to be part of the discovery process.”
Involving developers in the continuous discovery process will not only make your product better but it’ll also give them insights that’ll help them improve at their jobs.
An easy way to highlight why continuous product discovery is important is to present it as one track of dual-track agile.
Agile methodologies and practices are bound to be intimately familiar to your engineers.
Simply put, dual-track agile means that both product delivery and product discovery are done in parallel, complementing and informing each other.
Other teams can learn from continuous product discovery, too.
Your marketing team can use the data gathered during continuous discovery to fine-tune their campaigns, for example.
Continuous product discovery as a collaborative process of knowledge sharing is an effective way to expand your team’s knowledge base and help them become even better at their jobs.
Helps with backlog prioritization
Every project inevitably develops a backlog of tasks that need to be completed sooner or later.
Continuous product discovery helps you in prioritizing those tasks that will create the most value for your customers.
Prioritizing product backlog
Deciding which tasks need to be prioritized is one of the most important responsibilities your product manager has.
Your tech lead then has the responsibility of implementing and delegating those tasks to your development team.
Refining the backlog is a regular part of your development team’s Scrum meetings.
So, what should you take into consideration when prioritizing your product’s backlog tasks?
- Customer satisfaction
- The number of customers affected by your changes
- Business value
- Risk minimization
- Identifying opportunities to gain a competitive advantage
- Development cost
- Development time
Continuous product discovery helps you specify several of these elements.
Customer satisfaction is a key metric which continuous discovery tracks and aims to improve.
So is maximizing the business value your product provides to you.
We’ve already discussed how continuous discovery helps you take advantage of opportunities that crop up.
Backlog prioritization should be a collaborative process, too.
Using insights gained from continuous product discovery to prioritize your backlog will help in making your development process faster.
It’ll also foster cooperation between your product team and your developers.
This’ll make your teams more efficient and help make your product more successful.
So, what benefits do you get by using continuous product discovery?
Let’s quickly summarize what we’ve covered in this article:
- It minimizes biases
- Helps you meet your users’ needs
- Allows you to more easily take advantage of new opportunities and trends
- Allows quick adaptation to changes
- Grows your team’s knowledge and skills
- Helps you prioritize your backlog
Continuous product discovery is important as it not only improves your product in line with your users’ wishes but also fosters cooperation between your teams.
Both help increase efficiency, improve your product and maximize its business value.