The road to discovery

Ann Luu & Natalie Lindsey — Jun 18, 2020

Setting out on any group adventure, journey or road trip calls for a certain amount of planning. Unless you’re Hunter S. Thompson, you’ll want to agree on a few things first. Where are we going and how do we get there? What do we want to do when we arrive? What are the costs and what do we need to bring? These are all questions that need to be answered before we set off with our friends, partners or kids in tow.

Much like prepping for an adventure, preparation before starting on a business project is a very important step in ensuring a successful venture for both the agency and the client. This is called the “discovery” phase.

Discovery is the important first step of our journey together

This is the phase where we listen, learn, research and look for inspiration before putting a vision in place to help guide our clients.

You may already have a clear idea of what you want. So you may ask if discovery is all that important, or will it just tell you what you already know? Of course, having a clear idea of what your product may be, what features it may have and what it needs under the hood is a great starting point.

But that vision needs to be transferred to your agency. We would look at how that aligns to not only the business goals but differentiates you from your competitors and how it fits with the industry as a whole so that all bases are covered before you further invest in budget and resources.

We consider how the ideas sit with your customers. Whether those features you want to offer gives your users real value. Or is there something else they really want that hasn’t been considered. Often we see our clients’ ideas validated by their customers, but by engaging in a discovery phase, further innovations and some unexpected and important realisations have been uncovered.

Shifting the way we set off on the project helps align the agency. It also sets the tone of the relationship into a partnership rather than a service provider. And we know at Pollen that is where the magic happens.

Working with you to discover the destination

Insights don’t just come from your customers; as a client, your team can sometimes offer great nuggets of inspiration and vision. Having worked with many clients in the past, we have often come across ideas through conversations and interviews with passionate stakeholders. Expressing “why can’t we” and “I wish we could” statements can sometimes be easier when speaking to a neutral, external agency.

Even those narrow briefs can be explored in discovery. As we get to the heart of the issue we sometimes end up reframing the problem entirely.

What are we 
(re)searching for?

During the discovery phase, we cast our external research net wide. We look for ideas and trends from competitors and related industries to give us reference on where products are heading and gaps that may be filled or where there may be opportunities to differentiate.

As a client, the question may be whether to innovate and push boundaries or iterate cautiously. In either case, you want to know that you have the direction clearly marked based on the right insights and research.

We may look at ideas for a booking flow from airlines, event sites or innovators like Airbnb. Taking the best ideas from a variety of sources and adding our own insights allows us to piece together a solution that best fits our needs. In some instances, by not re-inventing the wheel and leveraging existing design patterns this ultimately saves our clients time & money.

With all the validated ideas backed up by research and aligned with the stakeholders, it can sometimes feel like you have a pile of jigsaw pieces without a picture to guide you on how the finished product should look. But fear not.

This is where the discovery process rubber hits the road as we consider what our product may look like at the point of launch and beyond. Working with you as the client, your stakeholders and the team - we consider ideas we have on the board and look at their value to the business and customers and the effort to implement them. This workshop prioritises and aligns team members on what we are aiming for the short and longer-term. Once this is set, we are off and running.

Calming anxieties and setting expectations

Understandably many clients find the discovery phase intimidating. “Who knows what crazy road the agency may go down.” and “We have to pay the agency to learn about us?!” But if this is truly the concern then we are not communicating the true value of the exploration.

As we’ve learnt with our Pollen clients, we are better problem solvers once we are able to learn about your challenges. How else can we provide valuable direction if we don't know the limits of the issues?

The discovery phase allows us to explore along with you. We consider how we can take the entire team, including yours along for the journey as we uncover opportunities. Particularly with customer testing. Nothing compares to the hearing pain points or feedback directly from your own user.

Set expectations on deliverables and playback all discoveries and ensure what was explored relates to the business or the brief. Uncovering how these insights will help the agency with the next steps of defining the solution.

We are keen to learn more about your experiences and thoughts on the value of Discovery for your project. Please share your thoughts. Contact us at the bottom of this page.