Adopting continuous discovery can feel like a big, audacious goal. If you’ve never spoken with a customer, how will you be able to set up interviews every single week? If you don’t currently work in a product trio at all, how will you be able to work and make decisions cross-functionally on a regular basis? If you’ve never used an opportunity solution tree before, how will you incorporate this tool into your daily workflow?
The answer to all these questions is: You don’t have to make all these changes at once. You can start small and improve over time.
Breaking the big, audacious task of continuous discovery into smaller pieces makes it easier for you to get started. It makes it more likely that stakeholders will sign off or agree to participate. And it means you’re likely to get some easy wins under your belt right away. This can give you the confidence and momentum to keep going.
Breaking the big, audacious task of continuous discovery into smaller pieces makes it easier for you to get started. – Tweet This
Bianca Starling’s story illustrates this perfectly. Instead of trying to transform the entire product organization at Voxy, Bianca looked for a way to roll out a minimum viable product (MVP) version of continuous discovery. She knew that if she could get some good results with her initial experiment, it would be much easier to think bigger and bolder for the next iteration. We caught up with Bianca for today’s Product in Practice to learn more about how she took this approach.
Do you have a Product in Practice or success story from the Continuous Discovery Habits community you’d like to share? You can submit your story here.
Meet the Continuous Discovery Champion, Bianca Starling
Bianca Starling is a Senior Product Manager at Voxy, a global language teaching platform that uses AI and machine learning technologies to provide adaptive, real-life learning experiences to learners. As a B2B company, Voxy’s vision is to be the easiest and most effective way to teach today’s organizations the English they need. “Our customers are both the companies that rely on us to train their workforce and workers who need an easy and effective way to learn English and communicate with their teammates,” says Bianca.
Bianca first learned about continuous discovery in a product management course at her previous company. While the course didn’t go into the specifics, it introduced the concept of opportunity solution trees. “I’m really into processes—maybe it’s because of my service design background—so I bought the book, watched a lot of videos, and started to dive deep into the framework,” says Bianca. “The more I learned, the more it made perfect sense to me and I was eager to put that into practice.”
The more I learned about continuous discovery, the more it made perfect sense to me and I was eager to put that into practice. – Tweet This
When Bianca joined Voxy, she noticed that they didn’t have a consistent discovery process. They’d rely on NPS, app store feedback, and support tickets to gather customer feedback. “I saw an opportunity and a need to implement the continuous discovery habits,” says Bianca.
Bianca presented the continuous discovery framework to her VP of Product and the PM team and they really liked it, so she joined the Continuous Discovery Habits community to be part of a network that could support her with her continuous discovery journey.
But after Bianca did her initial presentation, she noticed as no one was truly owning it, it wasn’t being prioritized among the other work the team had to deliver. So she began to take her role as continuous discovery champion seriously. “Every time I heard something that could be addressed by the continuous discovery habits, I would mention it,” says Bianca. “If someone said, ‘We need to increase engagement,’ I’d say, ‘Do you remember Teresa Torres’ continuous discovery framework? This is exactly what it addresses, how to map features to increase an outcome.’ After a while, people just knew I would mention the framework or Teresa.”
Making the Case for Continuous Discovery
Bianca became known as the person who would always bring up continuous discovery, but she still felt like the changes were slow within her company. “This was bothering me because I knew the company would benefit from it and I really believe in the framework and wanted to work with it and learn more about it in practice.”
It was time to take action. Bianca spoke with her manager, the VP of Product, and asked if she could define a personal OKR about implementing continuous discovery habits at Voxy. And he agreed.
Making the case for this was actually pretty simple, says Bianca. She walked her manager through the continuous discovery framework. “I just presented the framework and the framework speaks for itself.” She told him they’d be able to connect outcomes with actual features and they’d be able to connect their work to a business outcome and the company’s OKRs. Bianca explains, “I basically said, ‘It’s not that hard to talk to people to identify their needs rather than just basing decisions on what we think they need.’”
Her VP’s main concern was about how much time it would take. But, Bianca says, “Interviewing once a week didn’t take much time and the value it brought was really high.”
Interviewing customers once a week didn’t take much time and the value it brought was really high. – Tweet This
Running the MVP Experiment
Once Bianca’s VP of Product was on board with her MVP experiment, she created a simple plan, invited a tech lead and a product designer to be part of her trio, and they got started. Their goal was to conduct their experiment during a single quarter. They wanted to start working as a trio, talking to customers every week, mapping opportunities, and running experiments.
Here are a few of the steps they took during their MVP of continuous discovery.
- Recruiting interview participants
Voxy already used Pendo to collect feedback from learners or share announcements, so Bianca’s trio ran a Pendo guide with a link to their schedule and said, “We want to hear from you. If you want to participate and talk to the product team, please schedule some time here.” And people did. Bianca says she was pleasantly surprised by how many learners wanted to speak with the product team.
- Creating interview snapshots in Miro
Since they were conducting customer interviews as a trio, one person would run the interview and the other two members of the trio would take notes and create interview snapshots based on what they learned. They would rotate duties so everyone in the trio had the opportunity to be both an interviewer and an observer/note-taker.
- Building an opportunity solution tree
After they started interviewing, they built an opportunity solution tree based on engagement, which is the product outcome they were focused on. They began to focus on specific opportunities that connected to this outcome, like, “I’m not confident enough to join a group class.”
- Designing simple experiments
“Once we identified the opportunities, we figured out some solutions for them, and mapped some experiments,” says Bianca. They were able to run simple experiments with tools like Maze and Pendo. For example, they created an example study plan and used a Pendo guide to ask learners whether it was valuable or not. To address the opportunity, “I’m not confident enough to join a group class,” they identified the assumption that learners would feel more comfortable with a teacher who also spoke their native language (for the experiment, they chose Portuguese). They designed a quick prototype which added the languages the teacher spoke to the class schedule and asked learners if they’d be more comfortable joining that class. The results were clear—90% of learners said they would be more willing to join the class if the teacher spoke Portuguese.
Results and Next Steps
Bianca was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to recruit interviewees. Within a few hours of opening up the interview slots for the month, they were all booked up. And in one case where someone was a no-show, they repeatedly contacted the product team to reschedule because they were so excited to talk about their experience.
She also found that talking directly with learners made it so much easier to be invested in her work. “We had really helpful insights from our customer interviews and I was personally more motivated to find solutions to help them,” says Bianca.
Once we started talking to customers directly, we had really helpful insights from our customer interviews and I was personally more motivated to find solutions to help them. – Tweet This
When it was time to present her results, Bianca provided an overview of continuous discovery and emphasized the fact that it didn’t take a lot of time to adopt these habits. She outlined the steps they took and shared the link to the Miro board and the results from the experiments.
“Everyone was impressed by the framework and the results,” says Bianca. The CTO in particular was really excited about the data they had gathered, saying they’d been looking for this type of information for a long time. “It was fulfilling to see we could actually give something valuable to the team.”
Because everyone was impressed with the results, Bianca’s manager has now asked her to roll out continuous discovery to each team as a new team OKR. She’s already started helping other trios get started with recruiting interview participants and she’s excited to see what insights they gain from their customer interviews.
Key Lessons and Takeaways
As she looks back on her experience so far, Bianca says one of the major lessons was, “If you believe in something, you keep going and you don’t give up.” A previous manager had told her that you should only give up when you hear “no” for the seventh time, and she’s taken this advice to heart.
If you believe in something, you keep going and you don’t give up. – Tweet This
“My CDH journey was just like this,” she says. “I really believed in the framework, I knew my company would benefit from it. But just telling people about something is not the most efficient way to show benefits. People tend to believe only when they see evidence. So if you are able to show people some results—even if you have to run the framework, or part of it, by yourself, without a trio—you’ll be able to show the value and get people on board with it.”
Within the trio, you may find that some people are more hesitant to conduct interviews—especially if they’ve never done anything like this before. Bianca recommends taking the lead (at least initially) to show everyone that it’s just about talking to people and getting to know them. “Just do the first interview yourself and show them that it’s not a big deal. The more approachable you are, the more information you get.”
Finally, Bianca says that enrolling in a Product Talk Academy course (specifically Identifying Hidden Assumptions) has been a game-changer. Up until she enrolled in the course, she’d mostly been learning and trying to apply concepts on her own. “It has been an amazing hands-on experience to be with other people who are also trying to implement the same thing. You leave class feeling like you actually learned it and you can really apply that concept. If you have the opportunity to take one of the Deep Dive courses, I highly recommend it.”
Do you have a continuous discovery habit you’d like to improve with deliberate practice in a small, supportive setting? Check out the full calendar of Product Talk Academy courses here!