5 tips to rock your discovery phase

March 28, 2022

Recently, we have tried some new techniques in our discovery phase. Results have been very positive – both internally and externally – so we thought we should share the biggest highlights.

The discovery phase when working on innovation projects is key in a project as it helps us understand the environment surrounding the challenge we are facing. We assume you are already familiar with the basics of what research methodology brings, so this is what we found that raises the bar, but…how about to make it even better?

Here is what we have learned in the diverse projects we’ve been working on:

1. Empty your mind


This may sound obvious, but it’s not. Sometimes when we are presented with a challenge, we tend to imagine what we would love to do, or how we think the solution is going to be.
It’s totally normal, we are all humans here! But it’s a good exercise to set yourself loose of preconceptions and “me-myself-and-I” answers and flow. Keeping your mind open and taking these first ideas as inputs rather than final takes makes all the difference. That way, you won’t miss an opportunity nor condition the research.

2. Don’t be afraid to try new things (If they fit)


Information is out there, and it’s up to you to take it, being Safaris a good example of this. In case you are not familiar with them, a Safari is a field trip to the places where the main actors of the challenge “roam” and where we can observe them in their natural environment, asking the “why’s” and “how’s” of their actions. We recently did this for a project where we visited sports clubs and observed the players, the trainers, the noise and the parents watching (and shouting at) their kids.

Other examples are Cold Door Calling, Mystery Shopping or Shadowing. These can be really challenging techniques as they imply randomly talking to people, following people around and/or getting out of your comfort zone by asking questions “there and now” or pretending to be part of the landscape.

Observe and ask questions


3. Involve your client in the process

“Involving the customer in the innovative process increases the chances of success” Gijs van Wulfen, creator of The Forth Innovation Method.

Sometimes, from a conventional consultancy approach, the Client is someone that validates (or not) your work but does not take an active part in it. Including them as part of the team, asking for their collaboration and input for certain sessions and receiving their feedback “on the go”, has been a game changer. They are experts in their industry, and we shouldn’t underestimate what they can bring into the project.

Recently, working for a leading company in sports, we saw that working with their retail branches we were able to dig deeper in the field. Sharing the lead made us both feel more comfortable, avoiding misunderstandings later in the project as we shared a common language and vision.

4. Co-creation instead of splitting tasks

It’s often believed that splitting tasks and working inside the cave is the best way to be more efficient, but we have learned that it is not. Co-creating leads to inspiring one another, finding more ideas and to better team alignment. On the other hand, splitting implies finding the time to explain and share all the work and thought process previously done and to reach an agreement over its fruitfulness, turning what seemed efficient in the beginning into tedious and time-consuming in the end.

Be efficient and share knowledge

5. Free yourself from judgments

We cannot assume that we know what the user needs or wants just because we have already researched ten different “tribes” and “we’ve already seen all that is there to be seen”. Environments change and people change, and innovation is in the nuances as the devil is in the details.

Observation is cool, but understanding is better: no matter how many times we have solved similar problems, we still need to validate the solutions proposed, understanding if they really work, or we have to go back to the board. (Keep an eye open as we will discuss more about validation in future posts!)

These five statements are the discoveries we have made from iterating our own discovery phase. Since we love to see how our learnings can help companies grow and improve, don’t hesitate to reach out if you feel like we can give you a hand.

Always learning while enjoying this wonderful ride.

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