Product discovery — what can we learn from House MD?

But first, what is product discovery?

  • What should we do better
  • What should we be doing we are not doing at all

What does discovery have to do with House’s practice?

Discovery foundation — 4 questions to start with

1. Where do users (or patients) explicitly complain about something?

  • Ask people directly what they think
    - Surveys, feedback forms
    Tip: don’t ask them what they want; ask them what’s working or not working
  • Look where users share their feedback naturally
    - CS messages, sales calls, App/chrome/… store reviews, forums
    - TrustPilot or similar review sites (these will be biased towards people complaining. Great for discovery, but do ignore overall score)

2. Where does the product fit in users’ lives?

  • Exploratory user interviews
  • CS shadowing

3. Where do we see pattern or anti-pattern? What doesn’t make sense? (House’s equivalent of “run a bunch of analysis”)

  • Look at quantitative data (such as GA) to look for unexpected funnel drops, surprising distribution, or behavior shifts

4. Where do people use the product in unexpected ways?

  • Conduct exploratory user interviews
  • Look at public resources like Twitter/Reddit.
    Here’s a DeepL user hacking DeepL for grammar correction
  • Recordings of user behavior e.g. Hotjar
  • Open survey questions

We found an issue, what’s next?

Identify possible root causes first
For each cause there could be more than one treatment

Differential Diagnosis

Differential diagnosis, for medicine or product discovery
  • Cost of treatment (development time, eco system cost)
  • Cost of treatment being wrong (as it often happens with House, treating a patient for probable disease A will kill them if they have as likely probable disease B). In product development these could be losing users, wasting time, or reputational costs.

Start somewhere



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Elena Borisova

Elena Borisova


Product, data, decision-making, philosophy| Learning from everything that went wrong | Digital Product Designer |