Product Practice #291: Discovery Motions vs. Discovery Decisions


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“OK, let’s meet back tomorrow to complete the remaining Actor branches of the Impact Map before we talk about Outcomes.”

What sounds like a usual way to wrap up a meeting among Discovery collaborators represents a misguided prioritization of Discovery Motions over Discovery Decisions.

James Clear’s comparison of Motions vs. Actions inspired me here:

“When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome.”

Here’s how this translates to a structural Discovery tool like Impact Mapping:

Motions: Mapping out all horizontal levels before “allowing” yourself to go to the next one.

Decisions: Prioritizing actions to execute techniques to reduce uncertainties in identified aspects of Discovery.

Watch out for these Discovery Motions that keep you moving but prevent you from progressing.

Perfecting that JTBD statement one more time before developing and assumption-testing ideas.

Expanding persona details further before starting to recruit.

Getting an AI-based insights repository set up before reviewing the post-its from five interviews.

Selecting a new testing tool before rolling out the split test.

Completing every possible level of the User Story Map before prioritizing the first user stories in your next sprint.

Discovery Motions keep you on a horizontal completion and business path. Discovery Decisions help you get into action to reduce uncertainty.​

 How to put this Theory into Practice:

  • Check your current Discovery activities for “Motions.” Where are you simply trying to complete something (framework or blueprint) before getting into action?
  • Don’t abort helpful work to frame the bigger picture, but focus on preparing and starting activities in areas of uncertainty you have already identified.
  • What decisions (start with…, stop with…, inform…, etc.) can you make NOW in present areas of uncertainty to reduce the lead time to insights?

Thank you for Practicing Product,

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