Book Summary: Continuous Discovery Habits by Teresa Torres

Quick Summary: Continuous Discovery Habits (2021) by Teresa Torres lays out the fundamental elements of an effective and sustainable product discovery approach. She explains how managers, designers, and engineers should map out opportunities, set outcomes, solve client problems, and share creative ideas in teams. Torres introduces a human-centered discovery framework that enables teams to create valuable new products while also improving existing ones.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book summary provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

Continuous Discovery Habits Book Summary

The Product Trio

Most digital products are now designed, developed, and delivered to customers by multidisciplinary teams of software engineers, designers, and product managers. Product managers define the business context and ensure that the proposed product is marketable. Designers add creative and interactive features that allow customers to enjoy using the product, whereas software engineers build technical features that ensure the product works properly.

Teams first plan activities to decide what to design, and then plan additional activities to complete the design and deliver the product. These activities are complementary and interconnected, but each requires a distinct set of tasks. Discovery refers to the work you do to decide what you will design, whereas delivery refers to the work you do to design and deliver a product. Many businesses place a premium on delivery, focusing on meeting budgets and shipping deadlines. They ignore discovery and fail to assess whether they have designed the right product, despite the fact that it is critical to balance discovery and delivery.

Product management is changing. Both discovery and delivery have evolved rapidly over the last three decades. Because digital products are never finished, discovery is not a quick or limited activity. They continue to evolve and improve as designers learn more about markets, customer needs, and new technology.

A Question of Priorities

It is common for businesses to prioritize outcomes and benefits over customers. Many people struggle to balance customer and business needs. For example, if you have to click through several ads before you can read a newspaper article, this indicates that ad revenue is a top priority for the newspaper. Such conflicts are common in all industries, but they don’t have to be.

True, businesses must make a profit in order to survive, but they must not prioritize profit over customer service. According to business consultant Peter Drucker, the purpose of a company should be to serve customers by converting their needs into profitable opportunities. As product discovery methods evolve, industries are gradually shifting from an output mindset to an outcome mindset. Rather than focusing on features, which equal outputs, we are now focusing on the effects of these features on our companies and clients, which equal outcomes. The foundation of product success is a focus on outcomes rather than outputs.

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The Outcome Mindset

Adopting an outcome mindset is not easy. Teams are frequently unsure of how to measure and evaluate new outcomes. Typically, teams must conduct some discovery work to investigate the relationship between a product’s outcomes and business outcomes. Managing by outcomes empowers your team by giving them autonomy and responsibility, allowing them to own their work and be certain of the steps they’re taking. Rather than delivering a single roadmap by a specific deadline, they address either a client issue or a business problem. The outcome mindset also enables teams to measure success, prioritize work, identify appropriate client opportunities, and assess the impact of their experiments.

You must seek out opportunities in order to achieve your goal. They are limitless. You can’t just jump in because you’ll get lost. An inventory of your knowledge will be beneficial because it will allow each team member to apply their experiences and knowledge. It also helps to consider your clients’ previous experiences and set a scope of work. You should consider the scope strategically.

The scope can be narrowed if the team focuses on an optimization outcome, such as how to increase application submissions. Your work should be synthesized and organized as you collaborate to create an experience map. Make each map into a network of links and nodes. Then create a new map with all of those links, join similar links together, determine the link between them, and finally add the context in which you intend to work. Never waste your time on pointless debates.

Avoid using words rather than numbers in excess. Continue as if your map is complete and error-free; the map should always be improved. Google, venture capitalist John Doerr, and Intel CEO Andy Grove, among others, have recently popularized management by outcome.

Consumer interviews should be conducted on a regular basis as part of your process. You must understand their concerns and desires, but coming up with the right interview questions can be difficult. Concentrate on the customers’ actual experiences. Make it a habit to interview once a week. Furthermore, if the entire product trio participates in customer interviews, you will receive more value.

Mapping Out the Opportunity Space

Mapping the opportunity space is critical. Many teams are tempted to jump from one opportunity to the next because they believe they must provide the best services for their clients; however, it is not your job to seize every single client opportunity. Instead, your job is to seize client opportunities that support your strategy and help you achieve your goals. That is how you create value for both your company and your customers.

Remember that your goal is to address client opportunities that will have the greatest impact on your outcome, so begin with a list of possibilities.

Companies are suffering as a result of their obsession with outputs. They spend countless hours researching features and managing releases, but most feature releases are ignored by clients. Clients simply want their needs and desires met, but our strategies are based on competition, and the harder we try, the further we appear to lag. Fortunately, there are other options.

A well-organized opportunity space enables a team to make sound strategic decisions about the most important possibilities. When you focus on one opportunity at a time, you can produce better results in less time. If you work on multiple opportunities, you will take far too long to complete them all. Instead, you should address one opportunity before moving on to the next.

The next step is to enter a solution space after identifying a clear and critical client desire or need, which basically represents your target opportunity. Many teams begin this stage by brainstorming. Others think brainstorming is a waste of time, but it is important because it generates brilliant ideas. Furthermore, a single idea is almost never the best idea. As you propose more ideas, their variety, novelty, and creativity grow.

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Assumption Testing

Confirmation bias means that we prefer confirming evidence over disconfirming evidence. We pay more attention to information that validates our pre-existing beliefs. Confirmation bias is likely to influence product teams because each member adores and believes their own idea is the best. Team members defend their own ideas without considering why they might not work. Each member is overly optimistic about the success of their idea. Because assumption testing is faster than idea testing, it is useful in this situation.

Assumption testing aids in the evaluation of multiple ideas at once rather than providing a yes/no answer for a single idea. When performing assumption testing, keep the following factors in mind: desirability, viability, feasibility, usability, and ethical assumptions. After you’ve created a list of assumptions for each idea, the next step is to evaluate the assumptions and determine which ones need more testing.

When you begin hypothesis testing, make sure to contrast and compare ideas. It is often easy to prefer and commit to a particular idea, but keep in mind that you are susceptible to cognitive biases. The more time you devote to a single idea, the less you notice its flaws. Instead, you should gradually gather evidence to support your assumptions about each idea. The more you learn about each, the better you’ll be able to compare them all. It may appear counterintuitive, but you should avoid measuring everything as you begin to instrument the product. Rather than measuring and considering every detail, start smartly and then find a way to the best instrumentation.

Teamwork and Idea Sharing

When preparing for a stakeholders meeting, you usually emphasize your conclusions, plans, priorities, and roadmap. Even teams that are focused on the outcome have a tendency to overcommunicate about outputs. Stakeholders, too, have roadmaps and conclusions. Encourage them to share their point of view, even if their preferences aren’t always based on sound research. When meeting with stakeholders, you don’t want to start with your own conclusions. Instead, show your work gradually and follow an opportunity solution tree that draws the right path toward the desired outcome.

Never work by yourself. Good discovery habits are designed for a multifunctional team, but if your team is under-resourced, you can begin developing these relationships on your own. If you’re a product manager, for example, look for a software engineer and a designer with whom you can collaborate and consult on important decisions. You will gradually collaborate to determine what to build.

If it becomes more difficult, or if your company has never hired a designer, focus on finding someone with a designer’s mind. Employees who are concerned with usability can be found in any company. Look for people who naturally simplify complicated concepts, have extensive experience dealing with clients, and demonstrate empathy for client challenges.

Always ask yourself, “How can I make my next week better than the last?” You are definitely ready for the continuous discovery habit once you have the right team in place.

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Continuous Discovery Habits Review

Teresa Torres offers helpful advice in an engaging writing style. Continuous Discovery Habits includes illustrations as well as a three-page reference list. It is divided into three sections, with many ideas broken down into bullet points.

About The Author

Teresa Torres is an entrepreneur, business consultant, speaker, and author. She learned about human-centered design as a Stanford University student, but her first 14 years in product design left her disappointed. She decided to start a new career assisting software engineers, product managers, and designers in developing products that add value to both their companies and their clients. She has counseled hundreds of teams at businesses ranging from startups to large conglomerates.

Continuous Discovery Habits Quotes

“The opportunity space, however, is infinite. This is precisely what makes reaching our desired outcome an ill-structured problem. “

 

“After some reflection, I realized there’s an underlying structure to discovery that we can use to guide our work. It starts with defining a clear outcome—one that sets the scope for discovery. “

 

“By mapping the opportunity space, the team is adopting a customer-centric framing for how they might reach their outcome. “

 

“When a team takes the time to visualize their options, they build a shared understanding of how they might reach their desired outcome. “

 

“A continuous mindset requires that we deliver value every sprint. We create customer value by addressing unmet needs, resolving pain points, and satisfying desires. “

View our larger collection of the best Continuous Discovery Habits quotes. 

Further Reading

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