A Practitioner’s Reflection on Continuous Discovery: Embarking on Continuous Interviews

Karen Hsieh
5 min readDec 24, 2023

Three years ago, I enrolled in Teresa Torres’ Continuous Discovery masterclass, seeking clarity in my product development journey 🚀. Despite launching various projects, I felt directionless, lacking a cohesive goal 😕. This course promised a pathway to more focused and effective product building 🎯.

The class content, mirroring about 80% of Teresa’s public blog, brought structure to the Continuous Discovery concepts 📚. Despite my familiarity with her blog, it was the ‘aha 💡’ moments during Teresa’s lectures and the group exercises that deepened my understanding. Like my classmates, I often found myself stuck, only to be promptly guided by Teresa’s expert insights 🧭.

Aha moment in learning, light bulb, bright spark, thought bubble, collaborative classroom setting, diverse group of learners, modern and inspirational vivid and engaging color by Midjourney

Journey Begins 🛤️

Embarking on my journey with Continuous Discovery, I was eager to translate what I had learned into practice. It was about embracing both successes and failures, a journey marked by continuous learning 🌱.

In the beginning, adopting CDH (Continuous Discovery Habit) in my work environment proved challenging. I initially thought it essential to explain the CDH framework in detail 📖 to my colleagues, which led to considerable effort in preparing materials and inadvertently set high expectations for them to fully understand the concept, almost as if they needed to read the entire book before we could begin implementing it.

Then came an insightful suggestion from Bob, an excellent product leader who had experimentally applied this framework 👍. He adopted a more informal approach, which was straightforward yet effective: he casually suggested, ‘How about we try this approach…’ and led by example, implementing the habits without formal introductions or explanations.

Inspired, I adopted this hands-on approach too. This approach proved much more effective. It bypassed the initial resistance and ‘defense mindset’ 🗡️ often triggered by formal training, fostering a more natural and receptive adoption of the habits.

I would like to write a series of articles ✏️. I’ll delve into my exploration of Continuous Discovery Habits. Instead of reiterating what CDH is (you can find numerous resources for that), I’ll share my learning process, the obstacles I faced, and the discoveries I made along the way 🌟.

Make It A Habit 🔄

Continuous Discovery Habit, as the name of Teresa Torres’ book implies, is more about building a habit than following a rigid process (Listen 🎧 to this podcast where Melissa talked with Teresa about the conflicting methodologies in product management ). It’s about ingraining these practices into our daily routines, much like the simplicity and regularity of brushing our teeth 🦷.

For me, integrating these habits into my daily work meant starting with what felt most manageable. Initially, I attempted to follow the book’s structure, beginning with defining outcomes. However, I quickly realized that discussing business outcomes was a stumbling block 🧱 at that stage. I began with Continuous Interviews, a practice that directly addressed my need for a deeper user understanding, and surprisingly, it was less daunting than I anticipated.

Just as each of us has unique ways of forming habits, you might find a different aspect of Continuous Discovery more accessible to start with. The key 🔑 is to choose an entry point that resonates with you and your current challenges.

Deep Dive into Continuous Interviews 🤿

Our team’s approach to user research was traditionally time-consuming and resource-intensive. There was a prevailing belief that comprehensive user research demanded extensive effort and expertise, which we lacked internally 😢.

Breaking from our usual approach, I proposed a leaner, more direct method: conducting user interviews myself. Promising efficiency and minimal disruption, I aimed to bring firsthand user insights within a month ⏱️.

The interviews were eye-opening. The product was a recipe generation platform. Contrary to our assumption that users needed step-by-step guidance of recipes, I encountered a diverse range of culinary enthusiasts. From a housewife managing the needs of 6 family members with 4 refrigerators to a couple passionately pursuing their interests in barista and baking skills 👩‍🍳👨‍🍳.

These conversations shattered my preconceived notions 💥. I realized that ‘putting myself in the users’ shoes’ was limited by my own biases. True empathy and understanding began with listening to the users themselves 👂.

Engaging in these interviews alongside team members from different disciplines, like engineering 👨‍💻 and design 👩‍🎨, enriched our perspectives. Each of us noticed different nuances, contributing to a more holistic understanding of our users.

Continuous interviews have taught us to question and validate our assumptions. Now, when approached with feature requests, I delve deeper into the underlying user insights and assumptions driving these requests. For instance, when a manager proposed a new feature, I took a different approach than I would have previously. Instead of immediately diving into development, I initiated a conversation to understand how she observes problems and transforms these proposed solutions 🤔. How did she identify this problem? What were her sources of insight? I was particularly interested in whether her understanding stemmed from direct conversations with users, insights from competitors, or was influenced by less direct sources like opinions from acquaintances who may not even use our product.

Real-World Challenges 💪

Continuous interviews have significantly strengthened my intuition about our users. When making decisions, my mind draws from the rich tapestry of insights gathered from these interviews 💬. This practice has shaped my innate “sense” of our users, making my decision-making more informed and empathetic.

However, maintaining a schedule of ongoing weekly user interviews presents its own set of challenges. Theoretically, I understand the technique to make it happen. Yet, the practical aspects — the time required to prepare for, conduct, and then digest the findings from these interviews — are substantial ⏳. In response, I’ve adapted my approach to be more need-based rather than strictly regular. For instance, when faced with a specific gap in understanding or unclear aspects of user behavior, I initiate an interview plan 📅.

Over the past 1.5 years, I’ve conducted 15 interview plans, totaling 84 user interviews 👫. On average, this equates to roughly one interview per week. However, this number doesn’t fully capture the actual distribution of these interviews. In reality, there were intense periods where I conducted an interview every three days, especially during the cumulative seven months when these plans were in active execution.

How to do Continuous Discovery 🔍

For those interested in the methodology of continuous interviews, I recommend “interview customers”. Teresa Torres offers invaluable insights that can help you embark on your journey of user understanding 👩‍🏫.

Here are the notion template and miro template I created. Remember, these are templates only. You can get ideas from them but feel free to change them to adapt to your own needs 🔄.

Coming Next 🌟

I find that writing about my experiences not only helps me consolidate my learning but also deepens my understanding. If you’re navigating similar challenges or have insights on this topic, I’d love to exchange ideas and learn from your experiences as well 🤝.

In my next article, I’ll explore how to map opportunities after conducting user interviews. This step is crucial in translating user feedback into actionable insights and concrete plans. Stay tuned, and let’s continue this journey of discovery together! 🚀



Karen Hsieh

Product Manager driving growth and team empowerment with a user-centric and data-informed approach, aiming to pave the way for profitability.