Discovery Research

In order to gain a good understanding of what need you are addressing with your idea or what opportunity you might be generating by creating a new need, it is good to think about and research two sets of data: quantitative and qualitative. Also do it in this order.


This seems to be the easy part, as it is nothing else but classic research that can be done fairly easily in today’s networked world: online.

  • Try to find out if your idea already exists exactly as you thought about it. If it does, don’t stop. Figure out who is buying it, who is using it, how does it address a need or solve a problem, how is it sold, and other aspects of it. Maybe you’ll find that there is or one or several things that you could do better or different.
  • If you can’t find exactly your idea, see if there is something similar? Don’t only look for solutions in the form of a product or service, but also research your articulated need/hypothesis. How do other offerings address this?

These two starting points for your research will lead you to many other elements that might be relevant to understand your idea, the need or problem behind it and even the people that are building, selling, buying and using it.    

The goal is to become a „mini-expert“ in the specialist field in which your idea will live. Based on creative research and the analysis of „hard facts“ on the Internet, in specialist literature and other materials, not only a good level of knowledge, but above all a good feeling of confidence for your topic should be developed.


Great ideas are always only as good as the understanding of the need or the problem they are addressing, solving or generating. And the need or problem can only really be defined by the people that are affected by it. This is all about collecting more than your own perspective on your identified need and to uncover very important soft factors.

To do this, engage yourself in interviews and observations. And ideally, both at the same time.

When conducting interviews with people that you deem relevant for a better understanding about the articulated need or problem, do them within the respective context and thereby incorporate the observation of the environment.

If your idea is for the area of automobile after-sales, for example, the interview should be carried out in the workplace of a workshop employee or a sales representative. Often there is a discrepancy between the answers given and the observed behaviour of the person being interviewed, which in itself may highlight a potential for innovation. Only this connection between asking and observing creates the holistic view of a problem and makes it possible to obtain an empathetic understanding of the situation.

The aim of the qualitative part of your research is to understand people alongside their wishes, (latent) needs, hopes and fears and to acquire a feeling for their behaviour, background and attitude. This understanding, this feeling, is achieved by paying attention, asking questions, listening and observing emotions. Your learnings from this, mainly result from the surprising, the unexpected and unusual. Which in turn are a great inspiration for what sets your idea apart from anything else.

Keep in mind – it’s not important to find the „right“ interview partners, as you don’t know them yet anyway, it’s all about finding some interview partners that show a behaviour which can be inspirational in the context of your idea. Don’t waste time on researching the „right“ customer or user segments, rather get going and do some interviews. You will learn so much more.

Extreme User

Extreme users are helping to easier understand relevant needs. For example on novel users not intuitive or difficult to handle tasks are getting obvious quite easily, expert users often are able to express relevant requirements of a solution very explicitly and sometimes have good ideas by themselves.


  • This Forbes article explains why it is important to understand your extreme users. Make sure to read it before you move on to the next topic.