We recently held a webinar about product discovery with Nina Stanic and Dragana Stankovic from Levi9 – inviting guest speaker Raimo Van Der Klein, Chief Product & Technology Officer at Incision along to share his thoughts too.

With a focus on the user story mapping technique – along with real-life examples from hands-on experience – the webinar covered methods of effective product discovery and offered advice on dodging the pitfalls that normally slow things down.

But first – what is product discovery?

What Is Product Discovery?

Product discovery is a process that helps businesses to deliver the right high-quality product or service to the right customer. Teams use the process to discover users and customer needs. It’s about building the right thing rather than building the thing right.

In the discovery stage, your main goal is making sure you meet your customer needs in the best possible way. It can be tempting to jump into ‘how’ to solve the problems, but without first understanding and analysing the problems that users have – to prove or disprove the assumptions you have – you’re in danger of building the wrong product. This is why it’s a critical stage in the product design process.

5 Most Common Pitfalls To Avoid

  • Not doing any discovery
  • Not directly engaging with your end users to gather insight
  • Not running discovery and development concurrently
  • Focusing all of your discovery efforts on validating your opportunities
  • Using one method to test your assumptions_

Product Discovery Phases

There are different phases within product discovery. While most are quite well-known, it’s important to understand that product discovery can begin in different stages, depending on your thoughts and actions.

The first logical step is to start with Alignment, which often is the most important but also challenging task for product managers who need to make sure all organizational levels understand what to expect during product discovery.

Next would be the Research phase. Here you begin to start thinking about ‘why’ you are developing something. Maybe you are improving an existing product or building something from scratch – these need to be carefully considered when you’re building something (and can be helped by user story mapping — see below).

The Ideation phase should be when you start thinking about the solution – but it can be tricky to navigate. One of the most common pitfalls is that as soon as a viable idea comes up, development teams tend to organize their thoughts and suggestions around that idea.

To ensure openness to new ideas, it makes sense to hold individual brainstorming sessions before focusing on a single way forward.

In the Creation phase, it’s time to start transferring your requirements into (Jira) backlog items. At the end comes the Validation and Refinement phases. Depending on the level of quality you want to achieve before releasing the product, it is common to go back and make further refinements. But, as with most software-based solutions, continuous improvement is part of the ongoing process.

User Story Mapping

As mentioned above, user story mapping (USM) is an essential part of the Research phase, but it has an overall impact on the entire product discovery process.

In essence, it is a simple and yet effective technique that helps project teams to visualize a user journey and different activities throughout that journey. It starts by defining user personas and then mapping the journey for each of them. The objective here is to keep a constant focus on the users’ perspectives, focusing on their needs.

But there are more benefits to the USM technique. For starters, it gives the development and project teams better clarity on overarching business goals – while managing stakeholders’ expectations. It also ensures common understanding, mapping out why you’re building something.

The USM also acts as an information hub, giving every team member access to the user journey at all times. As a result, the development team can better understand what they’re working towards, and get oversight of potential technical opportunities and limitations early on.

Incision: Product Discovery Experience

Incision approached Levi9 to help with their product discovery. Incision is an online learning platform for improving surgical skills, founded by medical professionals.

With much knowledge in producing medical content, they had less knowledge about technology. This showed in their slow legacy platform, which was in dire need of migration to accommodate improved future products.

To get the whole Incision team on board, they started with product discovery to brainstorm what Incision wanted to solve for their customers and familiarize Levi9 with Incision, products, and functionalities.

The preparation phase included the:

  • Environment
  • Team
  • Customer

With a meeting room set that everyone could attend, they also needed necessary workshop tools, like markers, sticky notes, flip charts, and whiteboards.

If knowledge was lacking, the team was briefed and informed.

Finally, Levi9 searched for input from Incision’s customers, which could further help the product discovery process._


The outcome of the workshop was detecting all the user journeys by telling stories about expected user behaviors. This helped Levi9 and Incision move towards effectively developing a new, viable product.

After seven months of development, the successful Incision academy was live, with mobile-friendly versions to follow. “I think it’s a good sign, that no one looks back,” reports Raimo. After the migration and a fruitful, smooth delivery, Incision left the old times behind and embraced the new platform.

With tens of thousands of people joining the new, improved platform and nothing breaking – the whole team is happy and continually adds new interesting features.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:


  • Focus on the “why” and “what”
  • Involve different roles
  • Write just enough details
  • Capture dependencies and risks
  • Note down action points
  • Focus on fewer features > more impact


  • Go into technical discussions or the “how”
  • Conduct USM without software development team representatives
  • Assume that the complete map should be realized
  • Assume that the conversations end with the USM session

Preparation Is Key

For the best results across the product discovery cycle, preparation is key. You first need to determine your agenda and goals to distribute them to your participants. Also, make sure you have invited relevant decision-makers, representatives, and information experts to participate in upcoming sessions.

By planning a schedule, your team will know what to do and when to do it, ensuring no time is wasted and everything ticks along according to plan. Ensuring your team understands the techniques and tools, which might be new for some, is also key. Go over the do’s and don’ts in detail and make sure everyone understands.

Of course, your team needs to access their tools and materials. Make sure they can do so before it becomes an issue later on. It’s also important to set expectations for your team, which makes goals and the vision more tangible. Before each session, it can help to set out simple rules to keep things in order. Raising hands when questions arise and letting one person speak at a time can do wonders for overall productivity and focus.

Agreeing on who will be the facilitators is also an important matter. Make it clear who will do what, and make sure it gets done.

Conclusion & Follow-Up

After thanking the participants for their contribution at the end of each discovery session, make sure you have agreements on the action items, assignees, and next steps so you can distribute responsibilities to everybody involved. Of course, it’s important to follow up on any open questions, and doing so can help assess risks and make better improvements and ideas possible.

Also, ensure your roadmap is easily accessible by all who need it. Agree on how to manage updates to the map and how these will be communicated. Gathering feedback from your participants is also key, as it will set you up for even better, more productive sessions in the future.

Overall, product discovery is an incredible way to frame the user’s pain points, interact and learn from them, create and prototype solutions, and both test assumptions and new concepts.

But innovation never sleeps…

Want more information on effective product discovery? Contact us today.