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Why skipping the discovery phase is like a bad Tinder date

by Lily Tidy

The ‘discovery phase’. Whether this is a term you’re familiar with or not, it’s something you do every day, in one form or another.

Discovery is the act of learning, uncovering and finding out something that you didn’t know, or at least didn’t realise, before. It is the first, and arguably the most important, part of the creative design process, because it’s where the challenge can be questioned, the users interviewed, and the competitors evaluated. All of these steps contribute to clearly defining the problem, making it simpler to identify aligned objectives and to develop design solutions.

However, this phase is often underestimated, overlooked and undervalued and there are innumerable examples where brands miss the mark as a result.

The beginning of the project is where the discovery phase works best, before decisions are made and solutions are created. To get things off to a cracking start, I suggest giving these ice-breakers a whirl. Download here:

Then, take a look at these three key aspects of the discovery phase applied to real life scenarios that you may be familiar with:

1. Aligning on objectives and goals

Think about a Tinder date (or any kind of scenario where you are meeting someone new). It would probably be wise to have a clear idea of what it is you’re looking for and what the desired outcome is before you meet this person. The process might look like this:

You try to get the objectives right and set some criteria
Set your guidelines and rules in advance. In other words, the ‘hell nos!’ and the ‘hell yeahs!’ for the date. I’ll leave you to decide which bracket a Maccas meet-up falls into…

You set some KPIs
Make sure there’s something to aim for – a goal that relates to your overall objective – to allow you to evaluate the success of the date. For example, are they funny? Do they have kind eyes or good morals?

You both align with the vision
Agree with the other party on expectations. You wouldn’t want one person expecting a marriage proposal, while the other is looking for something, shall we say, less long term… Being clear about the outcome saves a lot of awkward conversations later on.

2. User research and stakeholder interviews

Buying a house is a major purchase and one not to be taken lightly. There are various stages to the process, and asking people for advice and getting stakeholder alignment are key to success. Here’s what that looks like:

You do some user research
Before making a decision, have discussions with experts to get an insight into locations undergoing development, which are likely to experience high growth in the near future. This will make sure you’re buying in an up-and-coming area. Ideally, you want to buy the worst house on the best street.

During this part of the process, it’s also worth speaking to other people who know the area personally. This will give you an understanding of how they feel about park locations, what the traffic is like or any reported incidences of crime.

You do some stakeholder research
There will also be discussions with both personal and professional stakeholders involved in your decision, like your family and/or partner, as well as your financial provider. Conversations are likely to include the details of the purchase, the long-term benefits and the feasibility.

External partners may also need to be considered as part of this research process. This may include the extended family who provide childcare at short notice or the cleaner you’ve become attached to.

3. Competitor analysis and accessing the landscape

Changing jobs and finding the perfect company to grow your career is an important decision that will have a significant impact on your life. Scoping out the competition and getting an idea of the industry landscape is imperative. Here’s what most of us do when figuring out our next move:

You research direct competitors to your future workplace
You often start by exploring what other companies offer. How do they create value? What are they investing in? What do employee benefits look like?

Scouting out the market and making comparisons will give you a clear idea of what each company is doing. Assessing their work, their processes, the people they employ and the culture they work in will make you more confident in your decision.

You research within the industry and the indirect competitors
It’s important to also take note of where the industry is going. You should get an idea of what will impact the industry in the future, what will it look like in five years’ time, what new technologies could affect the industry and how this will impact your role and responsibilities. Blockbuster didn’t see Netflix as a competitor until it was too late, and thank god you didn’t apply for a job at the video rental shop (or maybe you did, sorry…).


As you can see, we all apply certain elements of the discovery process to various aspects of our lives. Whether it’s the biggest purchase we’ll ever make or the value of a second date, taking time out to define the real problem and performing comprehensive research – before we become too invested in the outcome – allows us to objectively create solutions that will add true value to the decision we’re making.

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