What is Product Discovery? An Informative Guide (2021)


No matter how easy-to-use or visually appealing your product is if it doesn’t offer any real value to the end-user, it is very unlikely that it will go anywhere. It is essential that the product you create has great utility and not just usability and that is where product discovery comes in to fill the gaps.

With much emphasis laid on minimum viable products, usability, and lean methodology, product teams can still work under false assumptions about user requirements and it is only when their product or feature goes live that they discover its redundancy. With product discovery as a core process in formulating new ideas for products, teams can create exactly what the customer wants if not more. 

  1. What is the Product Discovery? 
  2. Why is Product Discovery Important for Product Teams?  
  3. Steps For Product Discovery

1. What is Product Discovery? 

Product discovery is the method through which the market need for a product is determined whenever the development teams come up with a new idea for a product. It is a critical step in the product design process that answers the most basic question of what should be built. The discovery process is a critical early product design step because companies or development teams who are wrong about the assumptions about their customer requirements end up building products that nobody really needs. This happens as design teams lay too much emphasis on how easy-to-use the product is while overlooking how useful it can be.

Therefore the product discovery process is critical in offering evidence that developer teams aren’t falling foul to inaccurate assumptions about the needs of the customer. It will ensure that redundancy of effort is removed and the final product solves problems or meets the desires of the client as closely as possible. 

2. Why is Product Discovery Important for Product Teams?  

Product discovery is essential for teams to develop products that have high-utility to customers and nothing more that will waste effort and resources. It helps build only that which the customer cannot live without and not products that would be ‘nice to have’. Products that have high utility will be in greater demand and be successful in the long run and product discovery what differentiates it from what is ‘nice to have’. 

When companies get to work building products that have no market value they risk wasting time, money, and resources building something that nobody wants. It often happens that the idea sounds good and the development team is off designing and coding even before validating if what they have built is what customers or anyone needs. As they continue with the development they fall further down the rabbit hole and end up as the victims of the sunk cost fallacy.

Although they realize that their development program isn’t going anywhere, they continue working on it hemorrhaging funds to fix something or change the features. Since these programs start off without any actual value they do not give back any meaningful returns. 

3. Steps For Product Discovery

Here are three steps on how to do product discovery: 

A) Re-examine your assumptions

The most basic step in all product discovery techniques involves validating assumptions that underlie the current methods. The examples include things such as do the initiatives come down from the top executive team and do they understand the needs of the customers thoroughly?

Does the product development team emphasize features based on past experiences without possessing fresh customer insights? Have a list of all the assumptions and rephrase them as hypotheses to test with actual data. 

B) Glean insights with empirical user research

To test your assumption you need data and it comes in two types: qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data is subjective in nature. It is gained through surveys, focus groups, and customer interviews to measure their intent and sentiment. This insight is critical for companies to thinking empathetically from the perspective of their customers. To build a solid empathetic understanding of your customer get all the teams together from engineering to marketing and have them involved in the qualitative data collection process. 

Quantitative data on the other hand is numerical in nature and comes from various sources where user data is gathered. This is generally the “data” that most analysts refer to when making data-driven decisions in the development process. An example would be a social media platform enlarging the size of the ‘share’ button on their posts assuming that it will lead to more shares of the post.

If the hypothesis hasn’t already been validated on a control group, work on it could go waste. To get user data product discovery platform can help a long way by providing analytics data based on which conclusions can be reached. 

C) Work with design artifacts

The product discovery artifacts are part of continuous product discovery where companies maintain sets of ‘living documents’ that are routinely updated and referred to throughout the process. Here are three examples of artifacts that go into discovery product management: 

  • Journey Map: Journey maps contain the hypothetical journey of the user as mapped out by a small team of people based on their empirical research. It is a literal map that also contains the path and the ‘actions’ to be taken along the road to reach the goal. 
  • Empathy map: The empathy map captures the emotions of the customers and records them on a four-quadrant diagram. This diagram is a map of what the customers think, hear, see, and say that pertains to their challenges and the opportunities that arise. It gives companies a sense of how users feel about their services. 
  • Customer persona: The customer persona builds a model of a segment of the users to helps teams design products for them. The users are often classified with catchy names with their demographics, behaviors, and psychographics attached to them. 


During the developmental phase, it is easy to get carried away by the product being developed and overlook its utility. Product discovery is there as a safety buffer to avoid wasted resources and effort to focus on a problem worth solving or a solution that has real value. It also happens that a new product discovery occurs when you are out looking for something else and this one has potential. 

Interested to learn all about Product Management from the best minds in the industry? Check out our Product Management Course. This 6-month-long program takes place online through live instructor-led sessions. It is the only program in India that offers the ‘Bring Your Own Product (BYOP)’ feature so that learners can build their product idea into a full-blown product, and go through an entire Product Development lifecycle. Not only this, but this is the only program in India with a curriculum that conforms to the 5i Framework. Post completion, learners receive a joint certification from the Indian Institute of Management, Indore, and Jigsaw Academy. 


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