Customer Discovery: the product leader's secret weapon

Perhaps the product leader's most important responsibility is customer discovery. Some call it “understanding the market” or “finding problems to solve” or “getting the jobs to be done.”

Whatever you choose to call it, nothing else brings as much value to the health of a product as personal experience with existing and potential customers.

To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.—Confucius

What is customer discovery

Every concept in your product—its target buyer and user, the feature-set, price, positioning, and so on—is a hypothesis. Everything in your product vision is an assumption. Each of these items must be validated to reduce your risk.

Customer discovery research is how you validate every assumption in your plan.

Don’t rely (only) on salespeople

Just ask RIM. They decided the cellular providers were the customer. So they listened primarily to salespeople. When the telcos said, “Don’t put a web browser in the phone. You’ll break out network,” the Blackberry leaders said, “Okay, no web browser in the phone.” Apple said, “Okay, well, we’re putting a web browser in the phone, so you better fix your network.”