How do I know my idea is worthy of becoming a product?


This blog post is a synopsis for a talk from Teresa Torres (@ttorres) called An Introduction to Product Discovery.

It was an excellent presentation — here is the condensed synopsis for my product management friends.

We should immerse ourselves in our customers’ worlds, actively working to develop a deep understanding of our customers, what their needs are, the context in which those needs occur and ideas emerge through this deep understanding. We should not be sitting in a room deciding what to do next, we should go out meet customers and ideas emerge out of deep understanding, and still we move forward cautiously by iteratively testing our ideas.

Assumptions in this approach are (1) We don’t know about our customers until we observe them (2) Customers are the experts (3) We are wrong, so experiment.

There’s two aspects to product discovery: (1) Deep shared understanding of the customer’s world (2) Iteratively test ideas

1. Develop a shared deep understanding of the customers’ world grounded in research

Exercises/activities

  • Customer development interviews
  • Customer observations
  • Dairy studies
  • Participatory design

Tools

  • Customer journey maps, grounded in research
  • Empathy maps, grounded in research (thinking, feeling, seeing, doing)
  • Customer personas, grounded in research
  • Any tool that helps visually communicate what we’ve researched

Build empathy for the challenges and pain points that our customers are experiencing. We want to provide enough context about the customers’ world that our teams would feel the same pain, start to empathize with our customers, and want to help them out.

2. Evaluate whether an idea is worth pursuing by iteratively testing it

Don’t go ahead with full steam and build too much. Quickly learn that the idea is not going to work so that we can move to the next idea that will work.

  • What has to be true for this idea to work → every idea has a whole set of assumptions that have to be true for the idea to be successful.
  • For each idea, you might have a dozen assumptions.
  • For each assumption: What evidences support our assumptions and what refute them (past experiences, win-loss, customer requests, inventory of existing evidence) → classify each assumption as valid vs. risky
  • For the risky assumptions, turn them into formal hypothesis with experiments, with experiments we are going to collect more evidence, we are trying to de-risk a risky assumption, based on the evidence collected from experiments make a final judgment call about the risky assumptions

Iteratively test assumptions

How many assumptions are true and how many are to be iterated on / evolved → most often it’s not a go/no-go decision it’s about refining/modifying the idea based on what we are learning.

At some point when we have enough evidence, we can decide to go ahead and iteratively build and test it.

If there is insufficient evidence with a lot of risky/unprovable assumptions, we could park the idea and move onto the next one.

The loop will be time consuming for the first few assumptions, and then it’ll be okay. Because most of our ideas could share the same set of underlying assumptions.

Summary

Ideas emerge from our deep understanding → those ideas get iteratively tested/validated → we start to learn about which assumptions are true and which are not → that feeds back into our deep understanding → and that makes our ideas better and better.

Building blocks

Hope you find this post useful.

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