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Illustration of a person popping out of a computer screen with a telescope - how teams do continuous discovery today, according to research

How Teams Do Continuous Discovery Research Today, According to Research

Insights from our internal research project exploring how teams define and implement continuous discovery research today.

Recent research conducted by User Interviews’s internal UX research team revealed the rising popularity of the continuous discovery approach to doing UX research, and we wanted to learn more. 

Product Discovery Coach Teresa Torres—who coined the continuous discovery approach in her book Continuous Discovery Habits—describes continuous research as like “putting money in a bank.” Collecting small, quick insights (like coins) can have a compounding effect over time. 

Led by our Senior User Experience Researcher, Morgan Mullen, and Senior Director of Product Management, Carol Guest, we conducted a focused research project exploring the practical realities of continuous discovery today. Much of what you’re about to read is adapted or directly quoted from their internal reports. 

✍️ Note that we’ve aggregated and anonymized participant info for this article—we respect the privacy of our participants and customers, and this is just one important strategy for keeping personal identifiable information (PII) confidential.  

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of our approach to the study, including our research goals, methods, and audience parameters. We’ll also share the key insights we learned about:

  • How teams define continuous discovery
  • Why teams start their continuous discovery journey
  • How teams approach continuous discovery
  • What teams struggle with the most when it comes to continuous discovery

The study design & process

Before we get into the insights, let’s briefly cover why we did this research in the first place and how we approached the study. 

📌 Why

In previous product discovery research, we learned that more teams are conducting “informal” styles of research, including (but not limited to) continuous discovery. 

This insight, paired with the rising popularity of the Continuous Discovery framework in the UX research industry, piqued our curiosity about why folks are doing this and how User Interviews can support these more informal research processes. 

Specifically, we wanted to learn:

  • Why are people doing continuous discovery
  • What prompted teams to start doing continuous discovery?
  • What does the process of continuous discovery look like on different teams?
  • What are the steps for continuous discovery? What tools are used? Who’s involved?

📌 Approach

To answer our key research questions, we decided to conduct 45-minute 1-1 user interviews as our chosen research method. Using a qualitative approach would allow us to understand more deeply why teams are engaged with continuous discovery and what it looks like in practice. 

We recruited and managed participants via Research Hub, and distributed $85 gift card incentives via User Interviews’s automatic payment distribution system. 

📌 Audience

Our target audience was 4-5 researchers or people who do research (PwDRs) currently doing continuous discovery on their team. 

We were able to recruit 5 people total, including:

  • A research manager 
  • A director of customer and product ops
  • Two product managers
  • A principal product manager

Note that we only spoke to 1 current User Interviews customer. Instead of grounding our conversations only in the context of User Interviews, we wanted to hear more about the continuous discovery experience for a broader audience.

What we learned about how teams do continuous discovery today

After five insight-rich conversations with our participants, we sifted through the data to review and synthesize:

  • How teams define continuous discovery
  • Why teams start their continuous discovery journey
  • How teams do continuous discovery
  • What teams struggle with the most when it comes to continuous discovery

Here’s what we learned. 

📌 How teams define continuous discovery

Continuous discovery isn’t a new term. As the Product Discovery Coach, Founder of Product Talk, and oft-cited “master of continuous discovery” Teresa Torres defines it:

“Continuous product discovery includes ‘at a minimum, weekly touchpoints with customers by the team building the product, where they're conducting small research activities in pursuit of a desired product outcome.’”

But as frameworks like these take off, they often adopt new meanings and new applications in practice. We were curious how participants personally define continuous discovery and whether the practice looked different in their organizations. 

The general consensus was that continuous discovery is a lightweight way to do quick research regularly, often with a team. Most aren’t following the official Teresa Torres approach exactly, but adapting it to work for their team and product cycle.

As one participant said, continuous discovery is:

"Looking at the data on kind of an ongoing basis. Not having to do too heavy of deep dives into it. Kind of keeping up on it so that you're not having to start the whole train over again every time you need to do it."

Of course, “lightweight” is a bit of a nebulous term—lightweight work to a team of one is going to look different from lightweight work to a team of ten. To most of the participants, “lightweight” continuous discovery meant:

  • Simple and repeatable recruiting flow (some used screeners, others didn’t)
  • Similar interview format over time 
  • Quick synthesis and sharing (trying to share soon after the interview)
  • Semi-regular (most are aiming for weekly or monthly, some as needed)

📌 Why teams start their continuous discovery journey

Continuous discovery doesn’t just happen. The process requires time and intention, so we wanted to explore our participants’ motivations for implementing it in the first place. 

We learned four main motivators for starting continuous discovery.

1. Traditional research is too slow/academic. 

This one’s an age-old complaint in the UX research world—traditional research takes too long! As one participant said: 

“So then from that comes kind of the would be something like the research team has been doing [an] ongoing study for half a year or year...”

On the other hand, continuous discovery is an ongoing series of quick, frequent research, which can uncover useful information on a weekly or monthly basis. That’s a key benefit for agile teams. 

2. Teams want to have first-hand, regular feedback from actual customers.

The most accurate customer knowledge comes straight from the source. As one participant said: 

"I think at the end of the day... what any product manager is trying to do is that you're trying to solve a real problem for your customer and it is really, really hard to know whether or not you're doing that unless you're hearing from them directly." 

Continuous discovery enables members of the product team to have these direct conversations with customers, ultimately building their empathy and understanding.

3. Continuous discovery helps with enabling ideation and democratization.

Democratization is one of those buzzwords in the UX research world. No matter how you feel about it, many teams feel that democratization is a necessity, driven by increased research demand and growing recognition of its value. 

Our participants seemed to share this sentiment, feeling pressure to start getting involved with user research more regularly. As one participant said:

“I think it was just one of these things where it's like, 'Oh, we really haven't started talking to users yet. How do we just build that muscle?'”

Learn more 👉 Distributed, Democratized, Decentralized: Finding a Research Model to Support Your Org

4. It’s trendy. 

Most folks in the UX industry have at least heard of Teresa Torres’s Continuous Discovery Habits: Discover Products that Create Customer Value and Business Value, even if they haven’t read it themselves. 

With the framework gaining popularity in the industry, teams have been tempted to explore it. One participant even suggested their team read it together: 

“I proposed the team to include Continuous Discovery Habits, it's a very trendy book right now.”

📌 How teams do continuous discovery

We noticed some common threads in how teams are approaching continuous discovery in practice, from choosing their research question to synthesizing and sharing insights across the org. Let’s walk through the process and share what we learned. 

Identifying research focus area

The first step to any research project is defining your goals. For the participants we spoke with, their main focus areas for continuous discovery were determined by:

  • Key questions or ideas about the product that needed to be tested
  • A desire to broadly explore customer needs
  • The product roadmap


One insight that surprised us was that recruitment approaches really varied from team to team, with some using numerous avenues to fill recruits within the same endeavor, including:

  • Personal networks and relevant communities (e.g. local groups)
  • In-app intercepts; intercom
  • Other teams, including sales/CSMs and leadership/CEOs
  • Email campaigns with the marketing team
  • Reaching out to folks on LinkedIn

Additionally, we learned that some teams use repeat participants, others don’t. There are different reasons for reusing or not; some teams can’t talk to repeat participants because they’re building novelty products for first-time users, while others have plans to build out full customer advisory panels to have regular conversations with the same group. 

Outreach and scheduling

For outreach and scheduling, one key priority that all teams shared was making the process as streamlined as possible for their participants (and themselves!). Teams don’t want to spend too much time actively managing their schedule, so they like to use automated calendar tools to set it and forget it. 

Some notable observations included:

  • Oftentimes, teams tried to manage outreach and scheduling all in one step. 
  • Most teams included the interview description and schedule link in one correspondence. 
  • Most teams use Calendly, SavvyCal, or similar tools that simplify coordinating schedules.
  • Some teams don’t use screener surveys, especially if they already know the participant fits their ideal criteria (e.g. from in-product prompts or Linkedin).
  • One team said they created a public Notion page to explain their research in more detail to potential participants; this team works with children, so clear, detailed outreach is all the more important. 

Prepping for sessions

Most teams already understand the importance of prep work prior to meeting with participants, to make the best use of their (and the participant’s) time in-session. The preparation techniques teams use include:

  • Pulling customer account data and/or syncing with the CSM to prevent repetitive questions during the interview
  • Creating a note-taking document
  • Manually adding collaborators (like other researchers, product managers, or designers) to the calendar event
  • Reminding participants about their upcoming session
  • Setting up the meeting room for in-person sessions


Analyzing, synthesizing, and sharing insights is one of the trickiest (and most important) steps in the research process

After research sessions, most teams approach the insights analysis and synthesis process by:

  • Setting up a quick debriefing meeting to discuss their findings with collaborators
  • Uploading session recordings to a shared insights repository
  • Rewatching sessions and typing up insights
  • Creating highlight clips 
  • Merging notes with other internal data, such as sales, support, or product data
  • Sharing aggregated insights with their team

A key similarity across all teams was a high emphasis on speed to insights. Strategies teams use to streamline the process of sharing insights include:

  • Inviting other product people (PMs, designers, etc.) to join sessions so they can hear from the customer without having to rewatch the session or review notes. 
  • Sharing ongoing notes docs with their team or sending quick summaries in Slack. One participant mentioned that they even have a Slack channel dedicated to customer research for sharing out insights. 
  • Aggregating themes across interviews in quick spreadsheets (instead of polished research reports)

📌 What teams struggle with the most when it comes to continuous discovery

There are always bumps in the road. In this section, let’s dive into the biggest continuous discovery challenges teams encounter, according to our research: recruitment headaches, the time-sucking task of synthesizing insights, and the endeavor to provide a positive participant experience.

1. Recruitment

With recruitment, many teams are scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find participants.

As any seasoned researcher knows (or a newbie researcher is just finding out), recruitment is a lot of overhead—and even in a faster, more lightweight continuous discovery model, teams are still struggling with it. 

For some, the challenge is just finding folks in their niche target audience. As one participant said:

“It’s so much work…just recruitment is already a big headache. Being able to recruit the right people to talk to. We’re basically using our personal network. We approach friends of friends, friends of friends of friends. We use up everybody!”

Other teams agreed that the process of outreach, reminders, tracking participant status, and other components of the recruitment workflow are incredibly “painful.” This work, which is often managed manually, is an unexpected workload that detracts from the actual research. 

2. Insights synthesis

As we mentioned earlier, a primary focus for teams is quickly synthesizing and sharing insights. However, this process is time-consuming, and several of our participants cited recording and sharing insights as a key challenge.

As one participant said:

“I just don’t have time to create very complex, fancy reports.” 

Some participants are manually aggregating qualitative data from interviews with quantitative data from NPS surveys and Salesforce, while others share the call script and notes with customer support teams to get their buy-in on the process. In at least one instance, a research session failed because the moderator didn’t load their interview notes into their insights repository. 

3. Providing a good participant experience

Finally, teams are very sensitive about the participant experience. After all, when you’re interviewing real (current or prospective) users, the participant experience is the user experience

For example, one team we spoke with works with children. Recruiting children can be tricky because they need to be contacted through their parents and can only participate with parental permission, so it’s critical for researchers to make a positive first impression with potential participants. To help provide clarity and garner trust with participants, they’ve created a custom Notion page to describe the interview in-depth and link directly to scheduling in one spot.

Another team said they were concerned about participants getting confused and dropping off during the process, which adds to the frustration of an already-difficult recruitment process. 

👋 Struggling to recruit the right audience and provide a good participant experience? User Interviews allows you to target niche audiences by characteristics like job title, seniority, homeowner status, age of children, device operating system, and more. Download our 2023 Panel Report for a data deep-dive into the participants who make up our research panel. 

Fast insights start with fast recruitment 

Our research on continuous discovery revealed both expected and surprising insights about how teams are embracing this approach. 

What’s clear is that both researchers and people who do research (PwDRs) are embarking on their own versions of continuous discovery in an effort to make research work better—that is, lighter-weight, faster, and more repeatable—for their teams. However, some of the usual research challenges (recruiting, managing schedules, and synthesizing data) still surface regardless of the attempt to take a “lighter-weight” route. 

At User Interviews, we’re looking forward to helping teams overcome the unique challenges associated with continuous discovery research—after all, that’s why we exist

User Interviews is the only tool that lets you source, screen, track, and pay participants from your own panel using Research Hub, or from our 3-million-strong network using Recruit. If speed-to-insights is what you’re looking for, we’re the recruiting option for you—in fact, our median time to matching you with your first qualified participant is only 1 hour

🟢 Sign up for a free account now, launch your first project within minutes, and connect your first matched participant within hours. 

About the contributors

Morgan Mullen is the Senior User Experience Researcher at User Interviews. Morgan is a former academic turned UX researcher who has always enjoyed hearing others’ stories. She loves to hike, camp, play disc golf, and root for the Washington Capitals. She thinks In-N-Out is overrated.

Carol Guest is the Senior Director of Product Management at User Interviews. Carol has over ten years of experience in product management and has held senior positions in user research, clean energy, and education. She loves to ride and fix bicycles, swim, and create icebreakers for any occasion. She thinks birds are the best type of dinosaur.

Lizzy Burnam
Product Education Manager

Marketer, writer, poet. Lizzy likes hiking, people-watching, thrift shopping, learning and sharing ideas. Her happiest memory is sitting on the shore of Lake Champlain in the summer of 2020, eating a clementine.

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