The more intimately you understand your user and the context of their lives and surrounding market, the faster you tap into real demand with tangible solutions.

&4D DISCOVER detail

The first half of the discovery process seeks to understand the unmet needs of target users and their stakeholders – the other players in the market who influence purchase, use, and re-use decisions. Apply several primary research methods, designed to engage the various target audiences most effectively.

The goal: understand  current perceptions, needs and behaviors as they relate to opportunities for your business. But don’t bias for today’s business, or you miss opportunities for the more valuable business to build tomorrow.

At the same time that our primary research team is in the field, we would pursue concurrent questions with the representative functions such as the client marketing team to address knowable contextual challenges.

Here are a sample of the areas of inquiry: 

  • Current State Model: How might the current market model be objectively mapped?
  • Emerging Technology: What technologies are likely to disrupt or redefine market dynamics?
  • Emerging Alternatives: What business models, distribution channels or economic changes are likely to impact the business. This may be framed as analyses of user functions served better, faster, or cheaper. Better = higher efficacy, higher, ROI, lower risk, or reduced user “friction” in purchase or use. Faster = on-demand delivery, lower inventory or storage or carrying cost or controls, simpler-easier-lower risk usage. Cheaper = lower cost base product, lower cost of total delivery, service, support, refurbishment or replacement cost.
  • Future Trend Scenarios: What are the salient factors that would drive alternative future market behaviors, and their relative probabilities? These might address factors such as payment models, regulatory & compliance requirements, competitive entrants, or shifting social expectations or user behaviors.

The second half of the Discovery cycle translates research insights into possible new business concepts. This begins with analysis to bound the primary and secondary research insights. Then we use a set of conception tools to correlate and map the insights against the Innovation Value Chain. In collaboration with client specialists, we draft a portfolio of concepts (minimum six), and work with you to select the top candidates (minimum three).

Major activities include:


Research findings are messy.  We wallpaper the room with the various target audiences unmet needs, frustrations, and workarounds. These begin to cluster around themes. We label these and detail them. Examples might include broad sets of issues under headings like “Confusing Selection” or “Hidden Economic Benefits”. They could also be very specific items like “Difficult Packaging” or “Slow Delivery”.


Insights overlap in a Venn diagram of possibilities. The first of two critical requirements at this stage is to know not to say no, (the preferred term of art to critique early well-informed solution ideas is “yes, and…”). The second is to organize around end-user needs as the priority (emphasis on regulatory or economic needs, though relevant, often become a euphemism for “no, but…”). These produce a short list of “Need States” for solution concepts to address.

Concept Framing (external)

Next we iterate six notional concepts from the market perspective, mapping them to the Need States. We articulate the main elements of the relevant stages of the Innovation Value Chain. Each concept should have the prospect of individually meeting project financial goals. We also map the touch points of the User Experience Model across the relevant audiences, particularly any distinction between channel, buyer and user.

Concept Selection (internal)

Finally, the client team weighs in on the cost, effort and challenges for production, compliance and distribution for each of the six notional concepts. We complete the concept descriptions in a short packet and convene a meeting of the business leads to select the three best concept candidates for development. We typically recommend a portfolio approach for a mix of feasible, viable, desirable and leverageable concepts.

Once we have agreement on the concepts to design, we move to the DESIGN phase.