It’s no secret that Product Talk is built on the foundation of continuous discovery. Yes, all of the content we create—whether it’s this blog, the Product Talk Academy courses, the community, or the Continuous Discovery Habits book—focuses on the various facets of continuous discovery.
But it’s not just the subject matter we write about. The principles of continuous discovery actually power a significant amount of the work we do behind the scenes at Product Talk, too.
The principles of continuous discovery power a significant amount of the work we do behind the scenes at Product Talk. – Tweet This
In the past, Teresa has offered a few glimpses of this. She shared how she defines her outcomes, how she’s refined her understanding of outcomes and impact over time, and how she’s used continuous discovery to guide her book-writing process. And she’s also always happy to coach the members of the Product Talk team in how to develop our own continuous discovery skills, too.
For today’s Product in Practice, I caught up with Welena Villasoto, the Community Manager for the CDH Community. While Welena’s role at Product Talk is not strictly as a product manager, that doesn’t stop her from developing and practicing her continuous discovery skills. Welena shared how she has developed a practice of continuous interviewing to identify opportunities within the CDH community.
This story is a great example of how anyone can establish and benefit from a weekly interviewing practice, no matter what their role.
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An Introduction to Welena and Her Challenge
As the Community Manager for Product Talk, Welena is responsible for driving engagement in the Continuous Discovery Habits community. She and Teresa decided that conducting weekly interviews with community members would allow them to better understand and serve the CDH community.
“These interviews are solely for our own research purposes, and we hope to discover solutions that will enhance the community’s value for our members,” says Welena.“During these interviews, we will explore how members engage with the community, their progress in developing their discovery habits, and the resources they use to improve and refine these practices.”
The challenge? While Welena had plenty of experience talking to customers in her previous roles, she’d never led the type of story-based interviews that lead to generating opportunities. “When Teresa suggested that I conduct customer interviews using the story-based method, I reflected on my previous experience and realized that it was quite different from what she was proposing,” says Welena. “I explained to Teresa that my previous approach had been more focused on communication, where I was constantly thinking about what to say next, rather than actively listening to the customer. She advised me that, in this context, the goal was to listen for the sake of listening, rather than just listening in order to respond.”
In the context of customer interviews, the goal is to listen for the sake of listening rather than just listening in order to respond. – Tweet This
First Steps: Getting Comfortable with Story-Based Interviews
Teresa is a big believer that deliberate practice is the key to developing skills, so she suggested that Welena conduct a few mock interviews to gain experience and confidence. Welena admits that this made her super uncomfortable at first. “I felt nervous and like a deer caught in the headlights, but I kept practicing,” says Welena.
To prepare for the practice interviews, Welena started by reviewing Teresa’s videos from the Continuous Interviewing course and noting the flow of conversation and questions she asked. Next, Welena prepared a document with a list of potential questions. During the practice interview, Welena took on the role of the interviewer, and Teresa was her interviewee.
After the interview, Teresa provided constructive feedback, including the following pointers:
- Ask relevant questions to help people remember and relate specific experiences.
- Anchor the interviewee to a specific moment in time.
- Redirect the interviewee from discussing general behaviors to specific activities.
- Make the interview all about the interviewee and communicate that we want to learn about them instead of sharing the spotlight.
- Allow the interviewee to talk and actively listen.
- Build rapport and convey an interest in hearing every aspect of the interviewee’s story.
- Be comfortable with pauses and allow ample space for the interviewee to speak.
“I have been working hard to incorporate all of these tips, and they have been immensely helpful in my interviews,” says Welena. After running through a few rounds of practice interviews, Teresa believed Welena was ready to start interviewing members of the CDH community.
Here’s an essential tip to keep in mind during customer interviews: Redirect the interviewee from discussing general behaviors to specific activities. – Tweet This
Recruiting Participants from the CDH Community and Overcoming Initial Challenges
Once Teresa gave Welena the green light, she posted a generic recruitment message in the #general channel and prepared a list of schedules for members to choose from. “Initially, I targeted members from the CEST time zone because the times coincided with my work hours,” says Welena. She began getting sign-ups and conducting interviews and was well on her way to developing a continuous interviewing practice.
The only problem? After about a month or two of conducting weekly interviews, sign-ups started to dwindle. No sign-ups meant there was no one for Welena to interview and no new opportunities to gather.
So Welena turned to Teresa for help. “After several weeks with no new sign-ups, Teresa and I discussed how we could address the shortage of interviewees. We reviewed our existing recruitment message and realized that the strict set of schedules I had included might deter potential volunteers,” says Welena. They decided to make a few changes to the messaging to increase the likelihood that CDH community members would participate in interviews.
They made the messaging more specific. Instead of asking people to talk about their CDH membership, they asked them to share their opportunity solution tree stories. This change led to an increase in responses since many community members had joined to create, iterate, or share their OSTs.
Not finding enough customers to interview? Try making your recruitment messaging more specific. – Tweet This
They also decided to be more flexible with interview schedules. Instead of providing a list of schedules, they asked people to send Welena a DM or reply to her post to set up an interview. In the DMs, Welena asked the member for their available times for the week, and they came up with a 30-minute window for the call.
And finally, because the focus of the interview had changed, they came up with a new set of guide questions that was more relevant to the topic.
The Results: Continuous Interviewing Is Back on Track
Welena was happy to see that the changes had the desired effect. “After making these changes, we noticed an increase in interest and sign-ups. The interviews led to new opportunities and a new, dedicated opportunity solution tree.”
Because she ended up changing the focus of her interviews and creating a new tree, Welena is now mapping opportunities and selecting an opportunity to pursue. “Once we decide on an opportunity, we’ll work on coming up with multiple solutions and testing assumptions,” says Welena.
Welena’s story is a perfect reminder that discovery can be a messy process and it doesn’t always follow a linear pattern. “While the experience hasn’t been entirely smooth, it has provided endless opportunities for improvement and iteration,” says Welena.
And there’s one area where the progress is clear: Welena’s interview skills. “Comparing my interviewing skills from when I started to now, I can say that I have more confidence. Through my experience, I have become more at ease in conversing with people—but I still have a long way to go before becoming an expert,” says Welena.
Key Learnings and Takeaways
What has Welena learned from this experience so far? “To anyone who wants to start their continuous interviewing journey, I would say that it’s daunting and can be stressful, but it will get easier. The insights I’ve gained from these interviews have given us a better understanding of our members’ needs and interests within the community. If I can conduct numerous interviews now, so can you.”
To anyone who wants to start their continuous interviewing journey, I would say that it’s daunting and can be stressful, but it will get easier. – Tweet This
Here are a few of Welena’s other key learnings and takeaways.
- Practice is the key to building confidence
“I firmly believe that practice makes perfect,” says Welena. Her early practice interviews and feedback from Teresa created a strong foundation that Welena continued to build upon during weekly interviews.
- But “bad” interviews still happen
No matter how much you’ve practiced or how many interviews you’ve conducted, you will still encounter bad interviews where the participant doesn’t want to talk or answer your questions. “Don’t let bad interviews discourage you, because, undoubtedly, there will be a few. Learn from them and move on, knowing that there will always be another opportunity,” says Welena.
Don’t let bad interviews discourage you, because, undoubtedly, there will be a few. Learn from them and move on, knowing that there will always be another opportunity. – Tweet This
- Identify patterns, but stay open to hearing the details
After you conduct several interviews, you’ll start to hear many similar stories. But it’s important to remember that each interview and individual is unique. “Although there may be similarities in their stories, everyone has their own distinct tale to tell,” says Welena.
- Be open to making changes
“It’s essential to be open to iteration, whether it’s your questions or your recruitment message,” says Welena. “Be willing to make changes as needed.”
Interested in gaining more hands-on experience with your interviewing and recruitment skills? Come join us in the next cohort of Continuous Interviewing!