Ep 06

Continuous Discovery Habits for Product Teams

Join our discussion with Teresa Torres, author of Continuous Discovery Habits. Her new book provides practical advice is designed to be a product trio's guide to a structured and sustainable approach to continuous discovery.

Presented by
Ryan Hatch
Head of Product Strategy & Innovation
Robert Kaminski
Senior Product Strategist
Teresa Torres
Author & Product Discovery Coach
Teresa Torres
Author & Product Discovery Coach
Andrew Verboncouer
Partner & CEO

Teresa Torres: Meeting culture is a big factor. It's just, it's ridiculous. How much time product people spend in meetings. A lot of this is our own fault, right? It's our ego. We're getting invited. Of course we want to be there. We want to be part of the decision and then like, product people in general need to do a much better job of saying no and being ruthless about, do you really need to be there? And if not, take that time and go spend it with your customer.

Ryan Hatch: Welcome to exploring product where we go behind the scenes on what it really takes to bring new products to market. Too often, people focus just on the success stories. Our aim is to flip the script. We try to unpack what product teams actually go through when trying to bring new products to market. I am Ryan Hatch. 

Robert Kaminski: And I'm Rob Kaminski. Every day, we're trying to build products that our customers love, and we know just how messy and difficult product work can be. We don't have it all figured out and we're okay with that. Join us on our journey as we explore the world of creating new products. 

Ryan Hatch: Welcome to exploring product everyone. Super excited today to have Teresa Torres on. Teresa, welcome. 

Teresa Torres: Thanks. I'm excited to be here.

Ryan Hatch: Teresa is an author and product coach. She runs producttalk.org. She just wrote a new book, which we'll be talking about today. Continuous discovery habits, so honored to have you on, and I've always appreciated for many years, Teresa, your thought leadership and so super appreciate you and your contributions to the community.

Teresa Torres: Oh, thank you. I want to highlight Ryan that I think you were, uh, one of my first 10 students in product Talk academy of all time. Uh, so I feel like, [crosstalk 00:01:37]-

Ryan Hatch: That's true. ...

Teresa Torres: I feel we go-

Ryan Hatch: Nice.

Teresa Torres: ...we go way back. 

Ryan Hatch: That's true. I remember, the mapping challenge course before before A lot of this get started. Teresa had me like sitting at a bus stop in the winter for 45 minutes.Like people watching, and that was my homework. 

Teresa Torres: [laughs].

Ryan Hatch: A Great story to talk about later, but we're super excited to talk about your new book today. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. Cool. 

Ryan Hatch: So maybe we could just start with, Hey, what made you want to, like, there's other things you could do. Lots of ways you could go. What made you want to write this book? Just kind of unpack that for us. Who is this for and wha- what made you want to write this? 

Teresa Torres: Yeah, a really good question. So I think my sort of north star metric is just helping product teams, product true, specifically, um, get better at engaging with customers, learning from customers, Infusing their product decisions with customer feedback.

Um, today we're calling a lot of that continuous discovery, um, and I've just been, you know, I've started by working with teams individually. I gradually moved into designing courses to get a little bit more scale. Um, and I I am a product manager at heart, so I was measuring, um, how all of those things were doing.

And I got to the point where my coaching curriculum was working fairly well without me. Um, and I was like, wow, this is ready, uh, for the whole rest of the world. And what's great about a book is it's really high impact. I can only work with a certain number of teams, but I can sell thousands of copies of a book, hopefully.

And, uh, that's why I wrote the book It was just to get these ideas into more teams. hands. 

Ryan Hatch: Awesome. Where do you feel like teams struggle most? if we kind of go back to like the why behind this, can you unpack a little bit, like where do you think teams get stuck and what do they struggle with most, um, you know, prior to having content like this or coaching from you?

Teresa Torres: Yeah. I, you know what I think most we're at the point, thankfully in the industry where most teams are getting introduced to these ideas. They don't have to be sold on, on why they should work this way. In fact, it's the opposite. Like most individual contributors are desperate to work this way and they're swimming upstream in an organizational context that doesn't allow them to work this way.

Um, and so one of my goals with the book was to really give people a how-to guide. So regardless of what your organizational context looks like, you can get started. Um, and I think there's a couple of mindsets that are really critical. here Is that a lot of people are waiting for permission. And I think people have more agency than they realize, and they have more ability um, to get out there and engage with customers.

then they think, um, and I've worked with teams that literally don't have permission. Like they're told you are not allowed to talk to a customer. Um, and we still chip away at it. we find a way to get through that. And we find a way for them to find people that are like their customers, whether it's in their own personal network or they make friends with the salesperson or a an account manager. Um, and so I think it really is just starting with it is possible even in your organization. I promise you I've seen an organization like yours. Um, and just flipping that on its head and saying like, I gotta find a way to do this. 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah, that's great. I'm curious. Who do you like when you're writing this?

Obviously it applies to anyone working in product in different roles. Who Do you think the book is mostly for, like, when you think through like how you were building out the concepts and creating kind of the toolkit, that's gonna fall into your, your, content? 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. So I think it, I think about the audience as teared. So there's sort of the like closest circle of people that have. Read my blog. They follow it along with continuous Discovery as it has evolved. They really, um, are already doing some of the activities, But they're struggling to adopt that continuous cadence. So that's the easy audience to write for it, right?

Like, let me just share with you all the things I've done with my coaching teams to help unlock that continuous cadence and, and get you going on your way. That's like, that was like the closest circle simplest audience to serve. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. 

Teresa Torres: Um, I think there's a, a circle beyond that, which is, um, people that aren't working this way. They haven't adopted a lot of discovery habits. Maybe their organization doesn't really support it, but they desperately want to work this way. And that's, I also wanted to write for them and really show like you do have more agency than you think you can start chipping away at this. Um, and then there's sort of the even bigger audience, which is probably the toughest to write for, Which maybe is still working in a waterfall waterfall environment. They're four degrees away from a customer. They don't even know why they should work this way. It's radically changing their concept of what a product manager or a designer or engineer should be doing.  Um, and my hope is that the book 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah.

Teresa Torres: ...just introduces some of these ideas and say, Hey, there's another way out there.

Robert Kaminski: Gotcha. What's, uh, I am curious which environment in some of your, your consulting and coaching. Are you working with some of the tip of the spear, that ideal the folks who want to be doing it and are really close and follow you along? Or do you, are you kind of in the space where they are far away from the customer and they they're trying to find a new way and you're trying to guide them.

Teresa Torres: You know, I've worked with a lot of variations. I've worked with some companies, like some of them were featured in the book, uh, CarMax and Snagajob are good examples. of this. Whereas at the time that I worked with those companies, they had really strong leadership. They were driving discovery across the organization.

Their teams were eager to learn. They were already doing a lot of the right things and we got to just, um, upskill and hone and refine. But I have also worked with organizations, maybe in more traditional industries. They brought on a head of product that was super visionary, wanted to bring this to the organization.

But the rest of the organizational culture, wasn't ready for it. Right? So I've literally coached teams where they come to coaching and they say we did nothing this week because we spent 10 hours a day in meetings and I've had to fire clients. Like I've had to go back to that head of product and say, you're not ready for coaching.

Like you need to remove. Some of these organizational barriers to create space for discovery. Um, and so what I will say is most of the teams that I've coached, they all have a leader who has said who's wanted to make this investment. Right? Because I contract with the head of product. Um, I also work with a lot of individual contributors through my academy, the product talk academy, that's where anybody can choose to spend their professional development, development budget to kind of learn how to do some of these things. And so that's an even broader mix, right? Because most of them don't have a leader saying, Hey, let's invest in this and work. this way." 

Robert Kaminski: Oh, that's interesting. So is it fair to say that some of the consulting is more uh, top down, you need some sponsorship from above and then the distribution at scale that you get from the coursework and maybe even the book allows maybe some of the bottom up effect to impact product teams that are out there.

Teresa Torres: Yeah. Although I will say I'm seeing more companies, um, choose to go the course route too, because what's great about courses is they scale really well. They can train their whole team really quickly, whereas coaching. is, Um, it's high touch. It's high value. It's a big investment um, and it's gonna happen much slower.

I think they both have a place. I see a lot of companies do like full team training, trying to upskill everybody really quickly. And then they supplement with coaching to kind of create bright spots or pure coaches in the organization. 

Ryan Hatch: People that, like you talked about the, the, the group of people that are adopting it, but they want to, you know, what are some of the, what are some of the friction points that they're they're running into?And, and why is that happening? You talked about meetings, but what else is in the, in the org? is, is Often causing that. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. It's a few things. So one is meeting culture is a big factor. It's just, it's ridiculous. How much time product people spend in meetings. A lot of this is our own fault, right? It's our ego.We're getting invited. Of course we want to be there. We want to be part of the decision and then like product people in general need to do a much better job of saying no and being ruthless about, do you really need to be there? And if not, Take that time and go spend it with your customer. I think the second factor is, um, a lot of organizational cultures have a gatekeeper, somebody who owns the customer relationship, 

...and you got it, you got to overcome that.

You got to push through those bridges. You got to build those relationships. You have to, um, find a way to get more frequent contact with customers. And then I think the third part of it is that some teams. have just Literally never been exposed to this way of working and they don't know how to get started. And that's really what I've tried to address in the book is if you've never seen this, if you don't know where to begin, here's some very first things you can do.

Ryan Hatch: That's awesome. Kind of going into like, yeah, cause uh, we've seen that all the time, like a gatekeeper whether it's the sales team, like don't, if it's B2, B2B, right. Don't talk to my customers, that kind of thing. Right. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. 

Ryan Hatch: Or, or like in, in a larger corporate environment could be like an insights team who, you know, we own the insights.

We own the research, you know, and it's just a, a, throw over the fence kind of thing. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. And those are actually two really different cases that I would handle differently. So with the sales team sales teams Should own the relationship. They're afraid of losing revenue, right? So a salesperson, their job is to close every deal they encounter.

And they're terrified that any little mishap is going to put the deal at risk. So here comes a product team saying, Hey, can I talk to your prospect? Of course the answer is going to be no. Right. So what do we have to do to overcome that we have to remove the unknown. So the salesperson is fi- is afraid of the unknown. But here's the beauty of it. Good discovery is what drives a good sales process. 

Ryan Hatch: Right. 

Teresa Torres: So we can actually align our interests. Right. So we can work with the sales rep and say, look, I need to get first hand exposure to your prospects. Here's what I'm trying to learn. Here's how I would learn it. These are the questions I would ask is that aligned with what you're trying to learn.

Can we partner on this? Right. So really it's just start small. Don't turn it into an ideological battle of like, Hey salespeople, all of our product teams need to talk to all of your prospects. Just start with a teeny tiny first step and help remove some of those unknowns realize you're on the same team.You have a shared goal. which is Not just sign that customer, but deliver overwhelming value to that customer. 

Ryan Hatch: Sure. 

Teresa Torres: And then, your second case, a lot of companies have these centralized teams they're doing, um, what I would call project-based research. Some people think, I think project-based research is bad. I don't, there is a time and a place for it.

Those teams are looking at things like broader market trends and customer behavior over time. And they tackle big research questions. That product teams don't have time to answer. Right. That's great. We should use that research. Um, when those teams become gatekeepers, it introduces a problem. And that's that the product team has, um, Daily questions they need answers to.

I've never met a centralized research team that can answer dozens of daily questions from dozens of teams. Um, the other thing too, is that product teams suffer from this bias called the curse of knowledge. We just forget what it's like to not have all of our expert knowledge about the product. so as we make our daily product decisions, we're making them from our perspective and not from the customer's perspective.

And if we can just engage with customers. weekly, We expose that gap and we create opportunities to close that gap. So I think when we talk about other research, it's a yes. And situation. Yes. We want to leverage that research and we still need to be exposed to customers ourselves. 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah. Teresa, you brought up, uh, you used weekly in terms of engagement with customers. Uh, and my, my, assumption is, is that there's, there's no perfect amount. And it's going to depend on the context of where you're at. Um, what is your perspective on that in terms of an ideal cadence for making sure product teams are engaging with customers on a regular basis. 

Teresa Torres: I want to see teams engaging at least weekly. 

Robert Kaminski: at least weekly, 

Teresa Torres: whether it's more than that will depend on your audience so I can give some examples.

Robert Kaminski: Okay. 

Teresa Torres: So again, the reason why weekly is because if you if it's monthly, you're going a whole month making decisions where you're not sure if you're closing that gap between how you think and how your customers think. Right. So weekly. You probably could get, you could probably remember what you did all week in that weekly touch point to, to start, to get, get some feedback, make sure you're on the right track longer than that.

It's getting, I think it's getting riskier now, depending on who your customer is. So here in the US, if your ca- if you work at target, if you work at Walmart, if you work at a grocery store, you could talk to a customer every day, right? Your, everybody's a customer. 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah. 

Teresa Torres: So recruiting is really easy. Um, having a 20-minute conversation every day is going to make sure that the vast majority of your decisions are pretty safe.

Now, should you talk to a customer every day? It depends. It depends on where you are in the cycle. It depends on what you're working on. I will share that as a startup CEO in a marketplace where I had two sides of the market, two types of customers, even as a CEO where I was doing seven jobs, I talked to a customer on both sides of the market Every single day. 

Robert Kaminski: Wow. 

Teresa Torres: And it's simply because I thought it was that valuable. We were in crisis at the time It was during the economic downturn. We sold recruiting software. That's the worst business to be in, in a, downturn. The other side of our marketplace, was university alumni associations, where were a nice to have not a must have also a terrible business to be in during a downturn.

But I knew the only way out of it was to make sure that I really understood. What customer needs, we can address in the short run to work our way out of it. Um, where I'll say you're not going to get to weekly where it's gonna get hard to get through weekly is I've worked with companies where their customers are, investment bankers, investment bankers are super secretive. They're super busy. They don't want to tell you anything about their business. Um, it, got, it was really hard to reach that weekly cadence. Did they still find a consistent cadence? Yes. Did they get to weekly? No. 

Um, other examples, if you're building tools for a respiratory ICU and we're living through a global pandemic, that dramatically affects that audience, Uh, you might not talk to them weekly, right? But uh, here's the way I look at it is take a continuous improvement approach. The more frequently you engage with your customers on a regular basis. So it's that regular basis. That's critical. A lot of teams, you know, they'll talk to a bunch of customers and then go a long time without talking to anybody.

It's really finding this regular cadence. And then over time increase the frequency. 

Ryan Hatch: That's awesome. 

Robert Kaminski: That's great. Yeah. 

Ryan Hatch: When, when you kind of look at like someone who is, who's reading this book Teresa, and they put into action and they, they, you know, whether it's taking the classes, reading the book, what do you hope people walk away with?

Like, what is, what does awesome look like? What kind of impact do you think that this, these, habits have for organizations? 

Teresa Torres: Well, so my first hope is that you read the book and it changes your behavior. That's the first hope, right? So what does that behavior change look like? You start to adopt the habits. You start to talk to customers more regularly, you start to map out the opportunity space.

You start to assumption test. Um, you start to compare and contrast solutions, right? So there's a number of habits that I think are really critical that when teams adopt them, they. create In an ordinate amount, more of customer value and business value. So really just looking at increasing the exponential, like at an exponential level, the impact your team can have both on your customers and on your business.

Here's the challenge. Most of us, we read books and we don't do anything with them, right? So like, I wish I could just say, read the book and everything's gonna be awesome. 

Ryan Hatch: Right. 

Teresa Torres: Uh, most of us are human. We read a lot of books or we read a lot of articles. We watch a lot of videos, whatever your form of consumption is.

And then we don't change. And so one of the things I'm looking at now that the book is out is what are the things that I can put in place to support people as they're trying to adopt the habits. And that's where, um, over the last four years now, we've been developing a course business with the book. We launched a membership program.

Um, it's just a community of people trying to put the habits into place, learning from each other, supporting each other. Um, and so I would hope that, um, my primary hope is you read the book and it's just magical. It changes the way you work and everything goes. great. Uh, because then, then I can just sit back and enjoy the fact that I had a huge impact.

It's probably not gonna be that simple. So what I'll say is if people read the book and they want support along the way, um, do check out product Talk academy. because there's a lot of resources there to help you put it into practice. 

Robert Kaminski: Absolutely. And I could, I could vouch for product talk academy as well. We talked a little bit about Ryan being one of the, the early, uh, early learners for the, the initial programs.Uh, I guess you could call me a late learner coming in

Teresa Torres: [laughs]. 

Robert Kaminski: but taking your, your opportunity and solution mapping course, 

Teresa Torres: Oh, cool.

Robert Kaminski: ...was, was awesome. And being able to bring that directly into the, the, client work that we had, and it's still relevant for us. Um, but what you hit on there is it's continuous, right?

Continuing to go back and you know, to work on the craft. Research and discovery is at the core of what we do. And even we admit that we have to keep learning and keep adapting. So your response makes a lot of sense for how people might jumpstart using your book to continue to go forward. Um, so I'm curious when, you know, it, it's kind of a selfish question for us, you know, we do a lot of work, uh, with, you know, startups trying to bring new concepts to market or even existing corporations trying to launch new products.

And they always come to us solution first, right? 

Teresa Torres: Yeah.

Robert Kaminski: They, they want to get into their idea. Uh, and I know like with your belief system and mindset for how you train on continuous discovery, it's a little different, right? You, move us in a different direction. of Solutions come after, uh, opportunity. Uh, what does that look like to you in practice?

How do you walk people back into the opportunity or that problem space to really get alignment? 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. So first of all, humans think in solutions, so it's totally natural that especially a startup founder or a new company, or even an existing company, that's investing in a new product, almost always the seed is going to be a solution.

That's not really true though. What's happening is your brain is making fast inferences. So what inspired that solution? You encountered a problem personally, you met somebody who had a problem personally, right? And you're driven to s- address that problem. The problem is your brain jumps really quickly from problem to solution.

where you quickly fell in love with the idea, and we forget that we were inspired by a person and a need. And so what I really recommend, like if I'm talking to a startup founder and they say, Hey, I have this great solution idea. Um, I do like, okay, let's dig into this. Tell me all about your solution because they want to first tell you all about their beautiful, amazing idea. So let's get that out. on paper. then I say, okay, you build it. So what, like what value did that create? Who's who are you, who is it for? And almost every founder has a theory of who it's for. Okay, great. We have a, we have a customer now. Now we can get into, um, okay. So we have customer over here. We have product over here.

They're using it. What impact is that having on their lives? We're starting to uncover, um, what needs, what pain points, what desires that? it's addressing. And if you're wildly successful at addressing those, what impact is that going to have on your business? That's what we're going to get an outcomes and we've just worked backwards.

Right. And really what's happening is people are already doing all of that thinking. It's just happening in a split second. And they're focusing on the conclusion. So it's just getting people to slow down, externalize that thinking. And now we can start to. test it. Is that really true Do customer? Is there a customer, does that person really exist?

Robert Kaminski: Yeah. 

Teresa Torres: Do they have those implied needs ...and will addressing those needs actually create that business value? 

Robert Kaminski: Got it. I mean, that's excellent. I was like, [inaudible 00:20:49] like when you say reverse engineer, for those of you have seen the opportunity mapping, you're working bottom-up.

Teresa Torres: Yeah.

Robert Kaminski: Uh, and then jumping back in, like, okay, now that we have it, we can jump to the, back to the bottom and talk through experimentation.

Or things that then go back up into our desired outcomes. It's funny for us. We it's maybe a sandwich effect happens where, yeah. They talk all about their idea and their solution. And then desired outcome is always this nebulous thing. of Make a million dollars 

Teresa Torres: Yeah.

Robert Kaminski: ...or 

Ryan Hatch: [laughs].

Robert Kaminski: ...like be wildly successful.

And so we, we don't have a really good desired outcome. You know, we have essence of the solution, but the, the meat is in the details of the opportunity space. Uh, and that's where I think your framework gets a ton of value for the way that even we apply it. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. and you know, honestly, most founders and, even people that are sort of intrapreneurs at organizations, They have such a strong belief in their solution that they want to like go to a customer and be like, Hey, what do you think of my cool idea? Right. I'm sure you've seen many people make that mistake. Whereas really like if they could just pull back a little bit and then go to that customer and say, Hey, have you experienced this pain point?

Tell me about that. in one conversation, they're gonna learn exponentially more than they would in 100 conversations about their idea. And it's just because humans want to be nice. We're not going to tell you your shiny idea is pretty ugly. Right.

Robert Kaminski: [laughs]. 

Teresa Torres: But if you ask about the need, oh, people will go on for days.

Um, and you'll start to be able to connect the dots between, Hey, actually, our solution isn't as shiny as we thought, but now we have we need to make it really shiny." Um, and then everybody wins because we build better products. It better serves the customer and we have much more successful companies.

Robert Kaminski: Right. 

That's great. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. And people want to be nice. That reminds me of this other book called the mom test. 

Teresa Torres: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. 

Ryan Hatch: Right. It's all about how to get truth from when everyone's lying to you. It's so true. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. That's a fantastic book. 

Ryan Hatch: I'm wondering, you know, when, when you talk about recruiting, if we get a little more more tactical a little bit more.Okay. Like who are we talking to? Um, Kind of maybe walking it back to, how, how, do I put this into action Teresa? Right. 

Teresa Torres: [inaudible 00:23:02]. 

Ryan Hatch: I'm I'm gonna start. And I know that you, you, talked about a bunch of different contexts. we talked about like the B2B, we talked about the insights team. We talked about a whole bunch of different even startups, and two sided ones that you were working with, but if I'm starting from scratch, you know, and I guess context is it's completely dependent on the context, but talk about, you know, when should I be recruiting or trying to talk to a customer from, from, a panel.

Teresa Torres: Yeah. 

Ryan Hatch: Versus like one of our actual customers that's in our product. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. So first of all, I'll share, I use customer broadly. So a customer could be somebody who's paying you for your service. It could be a prospect that's currently in your sales process. It could be somebody who's in your total addressable market that is not even in your sales process.

It could be somebody who's churned. So think about it um, a a segment Of people that are, that represent who your ideal customer is, And we're going to use that broadly. Now, if you're on a product team and you're trying to figure out who do I need to talk to? It depends on what you're trying to learn.

Right? So if you're trying to optimize an existing product, you probably want to be talking to people who are using that product. If you're, Um, lu- looking at new product, you probably don't have any customers and you need to be talking to people that fit your ideal customer, but are not yet customers.

They may not even be prospects yet. So your recruiting strategy is going to differ based on who you're trying to talk to. Um, in the book I give some ways to automate your recruiting process, because if you're hustling every week to find someone to talk to, you, you're just not going to do it. Um, the easiest way to do this is to recruit people while they're using your product, or service.

So that obviously works for people that are currently customers for prospects. You can recruit people while they're visiting your landing pages while you're engaging with your, with your marketing. Your marketing, you can also use your customer facing team. So if you're trying to talk to prospects, go talk to your sales team.

Um, if you're trying to talk to customers who churned go talk to your account management team, uh, so it's going to depend on, um, what you're trying to learn and who you're trying to engage with the different methods. But I will say the key concept here is you do want to automate your recruiting process.

What that looks like is you should show up to work on Monday. morning, And have a count on, an interview on your calendar that week without you having to do anything. That's what I mean by automating the recruiting process. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. 

Teresa Torres: Um, it sounds magical. I have worked with dozens, if not hundreds of teams that have succe- successfully done this, um, it will take experimentation.

You're not going to just try something and it's going to work. You're going to have to think about it like a funnel in your product. You're gonna have to optimize it. You're gonna have to measure what's working and what's not working. Um, but when you do get it set up. and working, It is magical. It makes interviewing as easy as just going to any other meetings on your calendar. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. And I was struggling with this recently with one of our clients. It's like getting that set up and it's like, well, how do I set that up? Okay. I got Intercom doing this to this segment, and then I'm popping up with, you know, at just the right time. Hey, will you talk to me? They're booking on the calendar I get there.

And no one shows up, it's running these experiments to, you know, maybe you could talk about what are the ways you can, you know, when you talk about reducing the time between. When they, when you book and when they, when they speak with you you can talk a little bit about maybe some tricks, some nuggets in there. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah.

So let's talk about recruiting people while they're using your product or service, the first decision, who are you going to target and where are you going to present the offer? Right? So your product is big. What's the right place to put the ask. And that's going to depend on what you're trying to learn, right?

If you're trying to learn about an opportunity and you have an existing part of your product that addresses that opportunity, Put the ask in that part of the product, right? So different parts of the product will help you segment. If you have tools like Intercom or Qualaroo or Ethnio, or a large number of tools we have now that will help you segment where you can use your own customer data to show it only to the right people.

Right. So then you can also, it's not just when in the product. but Who visiting that part gets to see it. Then there's, there's a lot of things you can play with there. And it's all going to depend on who you're trying to reach. Then there's the next piece of what are you showing them? So you need to offer, you need to ask for something and you need to offer something in exchange.

And the key there is small ask big reward, right? So a lot of people ask for an hour. Most people are not going to give you an hour of their time. That sounds horrible. Ask for 20 minutes, ask for 30 minutes at most. If your audience is really busy, ask for 10 minutes, ask for five, I've done five minute interviews, and you can get a lot out of a five minute interview.

Um, then you got to think about the reward. So you want to make it an easy. Yes. For B2C cash is often great for B2B cash is rarely great. So you want to think about what something low cost for your company to offer. Um, that's valuable for your customer. And I've seen So many people get creative with this. It could be a discount on your service It can be access to a premium, um, uh, support line.

It could be a white paper that offers a ton of value that they can't otherwise get access to. I saw a real estate company working with first time home buyers offer, um, access to a webinar about how to secure a mortgage. If you've never bought a home, securing a mortgage is this crazy black box process, I would go to that webinar.

Right. so again, low cost for the company to offer, Valuable for the um, end user. So then there's that formula of how do we test, how do we, what do we ask for? What do we offer in exchange then there is scheduling the further out you schedule, the more no shows you're going to get. So don't schedule an interview three weeks out.

There's psychology behind this. Humans are optimistic about how much time they're gonna have in the future. And we're very realistic about how much time we have right now. So if you want people to show up, schedule your interviews for later today, or for tomorrow, but do not schedule them out further than that. Um, there's other things you can do to prevent no shows.

People again are afraid of the unknown. So the more you can communicate, this is what you're going to experience. This is who you're going to talk to. you. Hi, this is Ryan. He's a real person. Here's the types of things he's going to ask you. We're going to do it over zoom, a tool you're really familiar with. If you ever are uncomfortable, you can tell me I'm done and back out.

Right? So you also want to remove some of those unknowns, um, and you want to make it really clear that you're not testing. them. This is where usability testing is sort of done a little bit of a disservice. You're just there to talk to them about their experience, what their world is like. And actually if you interview well, your participant should love it.

And honestly, at the end of the interview, they should say, when do I get to do this again? Because that means you spent the entire time listening to them and their stories and all humans. love that. 

Robert Kaminski: That's amazing, just a a wealth of knowledge I know we're taking notes I'm glad these are recorded, to fold into our own practice.

Uh, the thing that really resonates with me in, in everything that you described was having a value prop for the interview. 

Teresa Torres: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. 

Robert Kaminski: Um, so something to give, I think that really hits home that most people don't think about, um, because they think, well, I want to sell them. My thing is well, they don't care about that.

Especially if you're a prospect or not even a customer. yet You have to give them something. Uh, and so I think that's, I think that's brilliant. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah.

Robert Kaminski: ...The ideas that you put forth 

Teresa Torres: You know, I worked with a team. So they're, they are at a marketing automation company, so they help marketers run marketing campaigns. What am I asking the interview question in their interview.

Tell me about the last marketing campaign you ran. right? Tell me all. I want all the details. How did it go? What was your goal? How do you set it up. That's what they need to get the discovery 

...they need when they are recruiting. They didn't say, will you participate in an interview? They said, do you want to do a one-on-one consultation with our product team about your last product marketing camp, your last marketing campaign?

Awesome. Of course, I want a one-on-one consultation from a product expert on this. right? So, what did they do in the interview? They said, tell me about your last marketing campaign They captured everything they needed for their discovery interview. And at the end, they gave them some ways they could optimize it based on their own knowledge of their own product.

The customer walked away feeling like they got a free consultation. The product team got an amazing discovery interview. 

Robert Kaminski: Wow. Win, creating that win-win scenario. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. Awesome. 

Robert Kaminski: That's perfect. 

Teresa Torres: They don't have a problem. recruiting. And they don't have to offer an incentive. The incentive is the conversation. 

Robert Kaminski: So this is great.

So staying on tactics, so scheduling, getting to an automated level uh, is huge. The analogy in my head is, is almost like fitness or really any habit take the decision out of it. So I, you know, when you talk about, oh, well that's on my calendar. Like, I guess I'm doing it right. There's no, there's no way out.

Almost like lock yourself in. Tell me about execution when you're doing it. I know you talk about product trios, uh, ideally doing them together as a team. Uh, what does that look like? And, And, maybe to make it more specific, like we're doing a lot of things over zoom in our practice. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. 

Robert Kaminski: I imagine a lot of the teams you work with are as well.

What does a typical zoom interview look like? Who's taking notes. How do you approach it? How do you communicate internally with the team? Uh, think about that. 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. So first of all, some people think that virtual interviews are not as good as in-person interviews. I disagree. I think they're both good for different reasons.

So in-person, you can see their body language, you can see. You're going to pick up more facial expressions than you would even over zoom. Um, it's easier to build rapport. Um, and that's great, but here's the limitation of in-person, you're limited to people who are willing to come to your. office, Or people that you can physically get to.

And the problem with that is that means you're stuck to your region and you're stuck to people that have a lot of free time, which is not necessarily representative of your entire customer base. So what we get with virtual interviews and especially with zoom, zoom gives us really high quality video, really high quality, quality audio.

We're getting pretty close to in-person. We get to see their context behind them, which is amazing for a lot of types of interviews. Um, so that's the first thing is I, I, think it's actually more sustainable to do virtual interviews every week than to do in-person interviews. That doesn't mean don't do in person interviews when you can, but I look for what's the habit that's sustainable week over week.

And I think virtual has a huge benefit and it gets us access to a bigger variation in T in customer type, which is. great. Okay, so you have your trio, you've scheduled a zoom interview. What does this look. like? I've seen it done a few different ways. I don't know if there's one right or wrong answer. Some people, all three people on the trio join the interview.

They introduce themselves, they introduce their roles. They let the person know this is the team that is working on this part of the product. And they have a conversation with the person. Now, if you're going to do that, um, some people, some people worry you're going to overwhelm the person they're going to feel interrogated. So it's best to have one person lead the interview. So they're driving the, the questions, but everybody else can share their camera and be there and make it clear to the person you're talking to three people. In that instance, I usually have one person. with the other two people focus on note taking. If they let you record the interview, that alleviates a lot of that burden of note taking. So that can be helpful. Some people, depending on the topic, don't want you to record the interview. So then you're definitely going to need note takers. Um, it doesn't mean the other people can't jump in and ask questions. It's just that you're having the one person take the lead on the interviewing. Other people do raise a concern.

If you're interviewing something about someone about a really sensitive topic, you may not want to have three people listening that might make them uncomfortable, but here's what I wouldn't do. I disagree with this idea of the people behind the mirror. I think we need to be really upfront with the person that we're talking to.

About who's listening, how we're going to use the interview and not misrepresent that. So you might tell them, um, Hey, uh, only, I'm only sharing my camera, but I have two other people that are on the call that are listening. Or I plan to record this and share this with my team. And get consent. 

So what I don't like is when we have these like call people into a studio, the person feels like they're talking to one person behind the mirror is 25 people and we're misrepresenting what's really happening.

I actually think it's really important that our participant understand who they're talking to how The data is going to be used, who it's going to be shared with. And I think it's our job as the interviewer to set that expectation and to get consent. along the way. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah, I, I, couldn't agree more like I was doing one project all about relationships [inaudible 00:35:11] they're talking about all their, their, marriage struggles, like all this stuff.

It's like, how are you going to use this? Just be really honest. Hey, this isn't going anywhere. This is just, just for me later to come back. If I need to listen to to something, 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. ...

Ryan Hatch: you know, for my designer to look at it. Um, how do you, how do you, when you talk about the trio? Maybe it'd be helpful for people to understand, you know, why three people, um, does the developer need to be on, on, on every one of them? Like dev team's busy? Can you just about like, you know, what's, what's the advantage and, you know, can, can they come listen to it later? Or Can they look at the highlights? Like what's your take on that? 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. So let's start with the ideal world, an ideal world. The team sets aside, all three people on the team, the trio set aside time on their calendar To do an interview and an easy way to do this. is just say Tuesday at 11:00 is our interview time slot. We're always going to book our interviews. Then keep that open on your calendar. That works as long as that time slot works for your customers, right? So that may not work for everybody. 

Ryan Hatch: Right. ...

Teresa Torres: But the easiest thing to do is just dedicate a time so that all three people can be there.

There will be instances where people can't make it. Somebody gets sick, whatever. There's a Production release issue. And the engineering gets pulled into it, urgent P1 issue, right? That's gonna happen. Here's why we want all three people in the interview as often as possible. There's two reasons. One is in a trio model.

We want equal participants, all three people collaborating on decision making. If only one person has been in the interviews, that one person has a Trump card, no matter what decision you're making, they can say, well, this is what the customer said, and nobody else can respond. We don't have equal, um, just collaborative decision making ability when some people have access to the customer and other people don't.

So that's the first thing is we really want to create a quality in that decision making. The second thing is that different roles will hear different things from the interview. So by nature of being an engineer, you're going to hear different things from the conversation than somebody who's a designer and somebody who's a product manager.

we want to make sure that all three roles. hear the interview process, the interview glean value and insights from the interview. So in an ideal world, you've carved out time on your calendar. You're always scheduling. You're all there to do it live because that's, what's going to make it happen.

If somebody has to miss an interview, you can record it. They can watch it afterwards. They can process the insights on their own separately, but it's really easy for us to not do that. Right. You miss an interview. you never really get around to the video. You never really process it. Now the designer is taking the lead, right.

Um, and this is also a part of, I want all three roles to feel comfortable interviewing. I want all three roles to feel comfortable. note taking. I want all three roles to be comfortable with how you're managing the recruiting process, because what happens when that's not the case, let's say we rely on the designer to recruit and do the interviewing and everybody else just listens.

What happens when the designer goes on maternity leave for three months? Your habit just fell apart. What happens when somebody is unexpectedly sick? You don't interview that week, right? The more everybody's well versed in how to recruit, how to interview, how to process the interview. The more robust your habit will be.

Robert Kaminski: So I have a question in there. When does it become, you brought up a little bit of like synthesis and sharing. after? And so wha- what I hear and understand is in these trios, you have ownership over some decision making have the opportunities you go after, and thus the solutions you develop an experiment with.

When does that threshold for maybe a leadership or someone above who needs to be involved kind of shaping the desired outcomes and the opportunities that they're going to. chase? How do you handle that when they're not the ones in the interviews? Because it really resonates to me. Like when you have, don't have that empathy, you're not in a position to be able to influence and make those decisions.

But I could see in practice that some director VP level is going to want influence over part of the product in some space, but they're not in the interviews. How, How do you approach that uh, in your practice when you're coaching teams? 

Teresa Torres: Yeah, so I think there's two levels of synthesis to focus on the first is.

What did I hear from this individual interview? And the second is what are we hearing across our interviews? And I think of those as two distinct activities. And I think it's actually really important that we keep them as distinct activities. So with project-based research, we tend to skip the, what did I hear in a single interview?

Right? We interview everybody, we take a bunch of notes and we jump right to. Um, like affinity, diagramming, creating personas, creating research decks. What's wrong with that? When we jump straight to synthesizing across interviews, um, we tend to represent majorities. We tend to underrepresented minorities.

We tre- We, we tend to turn our customer into that average. And when we turn our customer in that average we replicate, all the social inequities we see in our communities Into our products, which we don't want to, obviously don't want to do We also miss out on a lot of the nuance and detail that we're hearing in a single story?

So the first thing I want teams to do is immediately after doing an interview. As a group pull out. What do we hear and learn in this interview? In the book, I include a one page template. It's called an interview snapshot that helps you synthesize. What did you hear in this interview? It's also visual. It kind of looks like a persona template.

The key difference is we're not, it's not a synthesis. It's what? Across interviews. It's what did you hear on this one? interview? Because it's fairly brief, uh, visual, it's also a great document to share with your stakeholders. Here's what we learned this week from this person, so that your stakeholders aren't getting just the across the interview synthesis, but they're hearing each individual story one at a time, and then it is important to do that cross interview synthesis as well.

That's where I look at opportunity mapping and structuring the opportunity space. And I think it's actually really important that we include our stakeholders in that process as well. So if every week when you're interviewing, you're sharing out, here's what we heard in this story. Meet Kelly. Here's what we learned from Kelly.

Here's, what's unique about kar- Kelly. Here's where Kelly is similar to other people. And then occasionally we get together and do these cross interview synthesis. Your stakeholders are going to be following along the journey and not just hearing your conclusions. And that really helps. with, Um, preventing them from saying, yeah, but I want you to go after this opportunity, you're working from the same knowledge base and the same learning experiences, and you're much more likely to draw similar conclusions. 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah, no, I love that. That that's really resonate, resonates with me. And I think it's actually going to be helpful to me personally, in practice, um, of letting people in individually. I think the piece that stood out was getting to see the snapshots along the way, uh, and then bringing them in even to the cross process, I think which can be a little daunting for research teams and product teams, because I, you enter into synthesis in a lot of ways.

of We don't know, let's figure it out. And that can be an uncomfortable space to be in front of stakeholders who to some degree, expect you to know 

Teresa Torres: Yeah.

Robert Kaminski: Also, they expect ...to have a direction. Uh, but I think your approach uh, really makes a lot of sense. in practice.

Teresa Torres: So, there, There's a couple things I'll clarify there. So first of all, a lot of teams do a good job of sharing notes and videos of their interviews with their stakeholders. But there's a major limitation to that, right? Your job is to do, discovery, not your stakeholders, your stakeholders don't have time to watch your videos. Your notes mean something to you, not to your stakeholders, so that there's a lot of power in this, like one page synthesis that's visual that helps you quickly communicate. Here's a story that we heard. Here's how you can get up to speed. 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah. 

Teresa Torres: So it should be something that somebody can read in five. minutes, Right. Um, and then I would not invite stakeholders to do the initial, initial cross interview synthesis. 

I would actually have the trio start that on their own. That is a really messy, hard process as I'm sure you experienced 

Robert Kaminski: Yeah.

Teresa Torres: ......in the opportunity mapping class. so I would actually recommend that the team. Put a little bit of structure to it first and then invite stakeholders to give feedback. Um, because the more people involved in that initial, messy bit, it'll just take forever. The key is you have to be open to the stakeholder feedback, right? So you're giving them something to react to rather than inviting them to be part of the really messy creation pro- process.

Robert Kaminski: Yap. that makes sense. 

Ryan Hatch: Totally. Yeah. I mean, the, the one pager is super, um, helpful, you know, sometimes we've created like a face wall. Here's all the people we've interviewed and here are the major takeaways. Here's what we heard. Here's what we didn't hear, like major, major takeaways. Um, and the synthesis stuff, it's always messy.

Teresa Torres: Yeah.

Ryan Hatch: Just Like, where, where's the sense of this? Where's the patterns in this and there's different lenses we can look through, right? I can look at it through this way or that way, um, I'm interested in. You know, the, the, the stakeholder thing is, is a real thing. And I'm also like when you talk about outcomes, you know, I know you've talked to the difference between like a business outcome and a product outcome.

Can you talk a little bit about like, what good outcomes look like and how does that translate into, um, into opportunities? 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. So, um, We're at the very beginning of the sort of outcome journey, right? So most companies are still somewhere in the transition from outputs to outcomes. So we see a lot of people say adopt, OKRs. and their objective is launch an Android app.

Okay. That's an output. That's not an outcome, right. Or they say, um, Uh, be the number one player in China. Okay. That's an outcome, but then their key results are launch an Android app. Uh, that's an output, right? So we're still we're learning. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. 

Teresa Torres: And even sometimes we get to a number. when outcome is a number, but sometimes we're just counting outputs, right?

Like I worked with a team where their out, their outcome was increased the number of reviews on their site. That sounds like an outcome, but it's a very output oriented outcome. What is the impact of having more reviews? That's gonna get you to the real outcome. Right? So number of reviews on the site is a total vani- It's a vanity metric. Why is that valuable? What's the impact of that? The impact of that is that people can evaluate, this was a core site they can evaluate what courses they might want to take. Okay. Increasing the number of reviews on the site, doesn't incr- Doesn't help people evaluate courses, Unless a lot of courses have reviews, right?

So it's the difference between I could have one course with 10,000 reviews or I could have 10,000 courses with one review. They both have 10,000 reviews, very different impact. So how do we get to a metric that better measures impact? So for them, we looked at increase the number of course, views that have reviews.

So not even the number of courses that have reviews because not all courses. are viewed, Right increase the number of course, views that have at least three reviews. That's getting at impact. Um, what's nice about that too. Is it also minimizes the problem they have to solve? They don't need all courses to have three reviews.

because a lot of their courses never get views. Right? So it makes the problem space smaller. How do we find where we can have the most impact? And that gets a little bit at your question, Ryan. of Okay. Once we have a good outcome, how do we discover opportunities? Well, we can start to look for like, okay, well we need more, co-, more of the most popular courses to have reviews.

Who's viewing those courses. Who's taken those courses. I'm sorry. let's interview those people. What's preventing them from writing reviews. What's encouraging them to write reviews and that's going to help us explore the opportunity space. Now I jumped right at the product outcome. level. Most companies actually start at the business outcome level.

Your leaders are thinking about growing revenue, growing market share reducing costs, and they're going to their product teams. And they're saying, sign three, customers increase revenue. Um, those aren't good product outcomes because a product outcome is measuring a behavior that's happening in the product.

The product team can directly influence it. And we often have to do a translation between business outcomes To get to product outcomes. And that requires having a theory of how your product is going to create business value. And oftentimes that's, if, you know, if you have a really strong product leader, that theory has been defined and everybody on the team knows it and you can do that.

Translation really easily. In a lot of companies that strategic context is missing and the product trio is going to have to do some work saying, okay, we need to increase revenue, The way we're going to increase. Revenue is by increasing retention. The way the product can increase retention is by driving engagement and increasing satisfaction.

So we're, we're working backwards from the pro- the business outcome down to our product. outcomes. 

Robert Kaminski: And you said kind of very beginning of that, uh, transformation, is that something that's covered in the book as well in terms of managing those translations uh, and working through that? 

Teresa Torres: Yeah, so in The book I talk about the difference between business outcomes, product outcomes, and traction metrics, [crosstalk 00:48:16]. um, a little bit 

...about how to translate between them.

Um, and then definitely like how to set the right scope to have for your discovery to be successful. 

Robert Kaminski: Amazing. Uh, I love that you let us pick your brain and even get tactical with you, uh, in our session today, like really, really grateful for having you on, um, I guess to close out, we did get a question come in, uh, from our, our YouTube cast. perhaps we could, could end on the question before, uh, dropping off today.

So the question comes in from, uh, Camilla here. Hi, online from Brazil, a question for Teresa. is there a risk in compromising research, rigor and quality when we uh, are encouraging teams to do user research continuously? 

Teresa Torres: Yeah. First of all, Camilla, I want to give a shout out. I can, I am blown away by the ama- the number of uh, people in Brazil who are adopting, Uh, continuous discovery habits. So rock on there, first of all. Uh, and this is a super good question because I do get into this a little bit in the book around testing assumptions. So when we're interviewing continuously, we're talking to one or two customers. a week. But here's what I want to emphasize. We're interviewing to discover opportunities.

The opportunity space is always shifting. We're not calling it done based on one, two, three interviews. It's always evolving based on what we're learning. So think about interviewing as, as money in the bank, compounding over time, we're continuously investing in our understanding about the opportunity space.

So that works because we're not stopping. It's always evolving. It's always getting. better. On the assumption testing side, so Now we're evaluating solutions. We're gonna start with small sets of people. We're looking for early signals in our first rounds of assumption testing, but we're not going to make a go decision based on talking to three users.

Right. We might throw out an idea if we talk to three people or five people and nobody exhibits the behavior, we want to see, we might just deci- decide there's too much risk. here. That's okay. Because if that was a false negative, if it turned out, it would have been an amazing idea, but we threw it away. There's another amazing idea waiting right behind Right. So false positives when we throw things or false negatives, when we throw things out are not that costly. because there's a million ideas. Now the problem is our false positives, right? So we do a small, we do a small experiment. It looks like it's gonna win. We're not going to just. build it. That small experiment tells us to invest in the bigger experiment and that bigger experiment tells us to invest in the next bigger experiment.

So the analogy I use for this it's like radiating circles out, right? Your first experiment is small because it allows you to throw out a lot of ideas as you start to look for something that looks like. a winner, Grow your experiment size, grow your experiment size grow your experiment size. Eventually you're testing in your production environment and that's where discovery and delivery start to blur together.

So we're not making go no go decisions based on small data, we're starting with small data so we can weed out a bunch of ideas and then we're iterating our way to more reliable. tests.

Ryan Hatch: I love it.

Robert Kaminski: I love that response, I think your, your answer and your analogy, even on the, uh, compounding interest in terms of how we invest in continuous, uh, interviewing uh, really resonates.

I think a lot of times in practice people, they have almost a get rich, quick scheme in mind for research. Uh, and we know how that goes in practice in other domains as well.

Teresa Torres: [laughs]. Yeah. 

Robert Kaminski: So really, really, good stuff Teresa. I love that. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. Teresa, thanks so much for joining us today. Super great stuff. Um, Just a knowledge base here of, of wonderful product secrets.

So the book continues to love continuous discovery habits. Super excited for you to, to share about that today. Where can people get the book? 

Teresa Torres: Yeah, so the book is available around the world on all Amazon properties in both, uh, print, and paperback and Kindle. It also should be widely available at other retailers.

It's being distributed, Uh, through Ingram spark, which is a print on demand distributor, which means that your favorite bookstore, even if they don't carry it, they can get access to it and print it on demand. They don't have to carry inventory, so you should be able to buy it anywhere. Um, the other question that I get is when is the audible version coming out?

Uh, I am 90% sure. I am going to narrate my own audible version. I have not even started this process, so I do not have a timeline, but it is going to be available eventually. 

Ryan Hatch: Very cool. Very cool. Yeah. Audible is always great to listen to. Um, And then you want to talk a little bit about your, your courses and where people can find your product talk.

Teresa Torres: Yeah. So the the easy, the first thing to know with a book is that if you're one of those few people, there's like 5% of us that can read a book and we can put it into practice. Awesome. I wrote this book for you. I give you everything. It is all the practical hands on put to put the book into practice.

Most of us need a little bit more support than that. The easy way to get involved is to go to members.producttalk.org. We have a new membership community. Uh, it's a great way to connect with like-minded people who are trying to put the the habits into practice. And then if it's a nice low cost option.

And then if you want, more training options, uh, you can go to learn.producttalk.org. That's our academy. Um, we offer courses around the world. We just made a significant shift in how we're offering our deep dive courses. These used to be self paced courses. Starting in the fall, they will all include live instruction.

Um, so that's a major shift for us. Uh, we think it's going to be a great way to build community and connect you with other like-minded folks. 

Ryan Hatch: Wonderful. [crosstalk 00:53:46]. Wonderful. Well, be sure to check out, uh, Teresa's work her book and courses on product talk, Teresa, thanks so much for being with us today. We really appreciate it.

Teresa Torres: Ah, thank you for having me. This has been a lot of fun.

Ryan Hatch: Thanks for joining us today. We hope this episode gave you some fresh perspectives and even some inspiration to help you on your product journey. 

Robert Kaminski: You can access notes, Links and resources from this episode at exploringproduct.com. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to share it with us on Twitter so that we can chat about it together until next time, keep exploring.

show notes
  • Where Product Teams Struggle Most?
  • Types of Organizations and Projects Teresa Works With
  • Friction Organizations Face with Product Discovery
  • Collaborating with Sales Teams for Discovery Interviews
  • Why Weekly Engagements with Customers?
  • Ideal Outcomes From Continuous Discovery Habits Book
  • Guiding Leaders to Slow Down and Focus on Discovery
  • Recruiting Customers for Research?
  • Creating a Strong Offer for Customer Outreach
  • Conducting Virtual Interviews with Customers
  • Why Three People for Customer Interviews?
  • Synthesis and Communication to Key Stakeholders
  • Understanding the Impact of Continuous Discovery
  • Research Quality vs Quantity