It is better to solve the right problem approximately than solve the wrong problem exactly

The music made me do it: The ultimate product discovery playlist

Sharpwitted Present: The Ultimate Product Discovery Playlist. A list of songs that embody the essence of a great Product Discovery.

If you have been following my previous articles on Product Management — The Music made me do it, you probably guessed that one day there would be an Ultimate Product Discovery Playlist. 

Guess what?!

The time is upon us and the playlist is near, let’s keep moving our feet through discovery and let ambiguity disappear (note to self: definitely missed out on a rap career).

So you think you can solve a problem, or even better, you think you understand a user problem and are ready to go develop the solution. Well, breath in and out and pause (Vogue or relive the mannequin challenge) for a minute. 

Before diving head first into it, spend tons of time and resources, creating a solution that won’t deliver its full potential or even worse isn’t going to be used at all and fail miserably, you might want to validate that you truly understand the problem.

This is where Product Discovery comes in. It is the process (who doesn’t like a great process #peopleprocessestools) that helps you to refine ideas by deeply understanding the true user problem and then finding if to, and how to, best solve for. It sets you up to deliver more value within the same budget and decrease chances to waste it on terrible ideas.

If you ever find yourself or anyone involved in your product wondering how Product Discovery sets you up for success, and how to run it, use the following mnemonic device in the form of a list of songs, to bring them along the journey.

TL;DR

I created The Ultimate Product Discovery playlist for you, to remember yourself and those who are with you, what it takes to ensure you will solve the right problem.

Need to remind myself here that this is a playlist I enjoy… really curious to hear your recommendations, so make sure to comment!

Understanding the challenge, validating desirability, viability and feasibility

Another day, another challenge, before you try and play, make sure you play the right game and are well-equipped to win.

It is exciting and energizing for teams to create, yet it is demoralizing when new cool features are not what the customer needs. 

With Product Discovery, you initially focus on validating the desirability, by first looking at the problem space and subsequently on the feasibility and viability, by looking at the solution space, in a timeboxed timeframe. 

Though Product Discovery is a continuous cycle, in my view, it is important to specifically call out timeboxed here, for a few reasons.

  • Product discovery for a problem spinning out of control turning into months and months of discovery, with no end, demoralizes teams who are eager to deliver value
  • competition is not sitting still and there is a good chance they will beat you to market, and as a result acquiring more market share, being seen as the disrupters.
  • Timeboxing helps the creative juices flow, working towards a deadline brings the best out of people (yes also sometimes the worst I guess, but I hope you catch my drift here)

Now let’s get into Product Discovery by looking at the Problem and Solution Space.

Product Discovery consists of understanding the Problem and Solution Space, which can be visualized as a double diamond

Both spaces are using a divergent and convergent approach.

Product Discovery: The Divergent and Convergent approach definitions. Divergent: Discovering new content, by producing multiple responses to something that has many unknowns. The emotional and cognitive process of going beyond known information. Convergent: The process of applying reasoning skills, and asking questions that logically and sequentially lead to discovering the single correct anticipated known.

The Problem Space

The problem space aims to set you up to solve the right problem.

It is split in two parts

Understand

To identify the right challenges, you have to understand the true needs, to solve for. Here you heavily rely on research to get you from I can’t understand, but I gotta understand to I finally understand

In this phase, you remind yourself that the focus is to ask to understand by saying “What else is there?” and “Guess again”.

Definition forbidden is the disclaimer to remind all involved of.

There are plenty of useful tools and techniques to help you.

Product Discovery Tools & Techniques: The Competitive Analysis, Product Analytics, Customer Interviews, Observations, Customer Profile and Empathy Mapping

Define

Once you have completed your research and understand the problems, it is time to decide which problem to focus on, in three simple steps (it’s like preparing a precooked microwave dish)

Decide sequence: Summarize, Validate and Prioritize

The Solution Space

With the Problem Space concluded, you are set to enter the realm of the solution space

Probably to no surprise, the solution space is split into two phases as well.

Explore

This phase is all about getting creative, brainstorming ideas and coming with solutions. It answers the question, “how do I plan to solve for the problem”. It is where all come together and think about the way to find it, the best ideas to create for.

Besides brainstorming, there are other useful tools and techniques to help you.

Explore tools & techniques: design sprint, mind mapping and storyboarding are a few to consider

Create

Just as in the define phase, you now find yourself in a good position to prioritize the explored solutions. Once done, go and bring the highest priority one to life, demonstrating its potential, by creating a prototype

Note that there are plenty of validation options to choose from, based on what you try to learn, what is to be tested and how much time and effort is to be invested.

Validation types: Clickable prototype, Simple landing page concierge, wizard of oz, mash-up and single feature mvp are a few to consider

Having chosen and created the prototype, all you have to do now is to test and recognize if the proposed solution is actually able to solve the problem.

Some types are.

Testing types: A/B Testing, Customer interviews, User Testing, Alpha Testing, Beta Testing are a few to consider

Present the outcome

Going through the discovery phase ends with presenting the (hopefully) inevitable outcome that the solution is the right solution to be delivered.

So what did you think about the playlist and which songs do you feel embody or capture the essence of Product Discovery?

Signing-off

Klaas Hermans for Sharpwitted.Ninja

For short reels, carousel posts and all that Instagram stuff, follow me on HERE

p.s. If you haven’t checked the previous articles and would like to:

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