“Discovery Discipline” (Book Review)

MAA1
4 min readMar 24, 2023

The so-called “Double Diamond” is a method that guides a lot of product discovery. The idea behind the Double Diamond is to go through phases of divergence (generating lots of ideas) and convergence (narrowing down the number of ideas). When doing product discovery, you apply convergence / divergence to a problem and a solution.

Image Credit: The Fountain Institute

Tristan Charvillat (VP of Product Design at BlaBlaCar) and Rémi Guyot (former CPO at BlaBlaCar) found that the product discovery process remains fragile despite people applying the Double Diamond method: “Either the teams give up and just implement the top-down solutions suggested by their managers, or they embark on endless explorations which they struggle to transform into real and workable ideas.”

Image Credit: Le Ticket

This experience prompted Charvillat and Guyot to write “Discovery Discipline”. Their Discovery Discipline Method is based on three key components:

  • Steps: a succession of seven steps, each offering a different, yet very complementary, perspective on the project.
  • Activities: during each step, a list of possible activities aimed at nurturing divergence and energising exploration.
  • Deliverables: at the end of step, short and precise deliverables act as a guide for converging and paving the way to the next step.

The seven steps and objectives of the Discovery Discipline Method — “F.O.C.U.S.E.D” — are as follows:

Image Credit: Discovery Discipline

Each step always includes an activity phase, which makes divergence more effective. The book contains a lot of different discovery activities that will help readers explore different options. This step is followed by a deliverable phase, to help with converging. Deliverables are there to ensure we make (tough) decisions on things like success definition and the use use case to focus on. There are seven deliverables in the discovery phase:

Image Credit: Discovery Discipline

In turn, each deliverable has a number of suggested activities:

Image Credit: Discovery Discipline

In the book, Charvillat and Guyot cover each of the seven steps of the Discovery Discipline Method in detail, covering the deliverable, activities and common error per step.

For example, “Observe” is the second step of the Discovery Discipline Method. The “First Use Case” is its deliverable; identifying the main customer use case and optimising the solution to fit that need. The First Use Case will act as a decision filter and help ignoring secondary use cases as well as settling on the right solution. This is how you can build out your First Use Case:

I am [target user] and when I [use case] what matters most [need].

But it turns out [constraint] and I end up [workaround].

When identifying the First Use Case, it’s important to consider the ‘constraint’ and ‘workaround’ aspects of the use case. If you believe that you’ve identified a customer need that hasn’t been met, but customers aren’t encountering any constraints or are creating workarounds, then this need probably doesn’t warrant being your top priority.

To arrive at the First Use Case, Charvillat and Guyot suggest a number of related activities to consider:

  • Hands-on experience
  • Phone interview
  • Social Networks & App Stores
  • Online Questionnaire
  • Customer Service
  • Home Visits
  • Interview Cards
  • Empathy Cards

The common error that one must watch out for during the Observe stage is a vague and open ended First Use Case. Instead, the First Use Case needs to be specific in order to help you make decisions and prioritise.

By applying the deliverable-activities-common error approach to each step of the Discovery Discipline Method, readers can easily identify the right output and the appropriate discovery activities to get there.

Main learning point: Discovery Discipline is a compact book, but jam packed with valuable tips on all things discovery. While the book is mostly geared towards qualitative discovery, it’s easy to see how the Discovery Discipline Method can be used in conjunction with quantitive discovery methods. Discovery Discipline is highly practical and clearly based on real-life experiences by its authors. If you’re new to product discovery or want to put some structure around your discovery activities, I highly recommend reading Discovery Discipline.

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MAA1

Product at Intercom, author of "My Product Management Toolkit" and “Managing Product = Managing Tension” — see https://bit.ly/3gH2dOD.