Published January 2, 2024

Seamlessly Integrate Continuous Discovery with the GIST Framework

8 min read

Hey, space explorers in the digital frontier! If you’re here, you’re on a mission to build stellar apps, not just standard software.

Continuous discovery is your navigation system, and the GIST Framework is your launch pad. Let’s gear up for a direct flight through development where ongoing research and agile action are your co-pilots. With GIST as your guide, we’re not just floating in orbit but heading straight for the stars. 

Ready for takeoff? Let’s make that software shine bright.

Who needs a product roadmap anyway?

Developing a product roadmap can be daunting, filled with assumptions and expectations that everything must be accomplished. That’s why we’re intrigued by Itamar Gilad’s GIST framework that focuses on goals, creating ideas, and iteratively delivering on projects. It’s a perfect compliment to continuous discovery.

digital product testing method - GIST framework

GIST emphasizes iterative development. With Helio you can test and refine your product in phases, ensuring each step adds real value. An iterative testing approach helps you adapt quickly to user feedback. This can make your development process more agile and responsive, paving the way for a harmonious growth loop between your product and customers.

Here are the four parts of the framework:

  • Goals: Long-term, measurable objectives guiding overall strategy.
  • Ideas: Creative solutions and hypotheses to achieve goals.
  • Step Projects: Short, iterative projects testing ideas in action.
  • Tasks: Specific, actionable steps executed within step projects.

Goals: Charting the Map with Continuous Discovery

Goals serve as the guiding light of a company’s strategy, outlining the desired outcomes, timelines, and metrics for success. They provide clarity across the organization, answering the fundamental “why” behind every project. 

Imagine your software journey as an epic adventure. You wouldn’t embark without a map, right? Continuous discovery helps you chart that map, and your goals are the X marks the treasure. 

These aren’t just old goals; they’re informed by relentless user research, market analysis, and a pinch of foresight. By keeping your finger on the pulse of user needs, you can craft goals that are not only ambitious but also adaptable to the ever-changing tech landscape.

Most strategy plans commit a cardinal sin — they specify solutions (use technology X, partner with company Y, launch country Z) rather than goals. Any modern army general will tell you this is backwards — you give the troops objectives and let them figure out ways to accomplish them.

Integrating Continuous Discovery

Continuous discovery is a product management approach where teams constantly gather customer and user feedback to understand their needs, behaviors, and experiences. This process involves regularly interacting with users, conducting experiments, and analyzing market trends. The goal is to learn and adapt the product to meet user’s continuous needs better and respond to changing market conditions. 

By integrating this ongoing discovery into the product development cycle, teams can make more informed and user-centric decisions, making products more aligned with what users want and need. This approach contrasts the traditional method, where user research is conducted less frequently, often only at set stages of the product development process.

Ideas: The Birthplace of Innovation

Here’s where the magic of continuous discovery shines. Every idea is a hypothesis waiting to be tested against the real world. Will this feature make your app the talk of the town? There’s only one way to find out: test, learn, iterate. Your ideas become living, breathing entities that evolve with each user interview, each survey, and each piece of feedback. This is ideation with intention, powered by the ever-churning engine of discovery.

In the GIST framework, ideas are considered crucial hypothetical solutions to achieve goals. Recognizing that most ideas might not yield positive results, with even those from experienced leaders and product managers often failing, GIST adopts a unique approach. Instead of discarding ideas prematurely or getting tangled in prioritization battles, all ideas are collected as opportunities, such as a spreadsheet or database. 

These ideas are then prioritized based on evidence, using methods like Sean Ellis’s ICE prioritization. We use Helio to rank our ideas with an Opportunity Index. The most promising ideas, as determined by this prioritization, are then put to the test through step-projects, allowing for practical evaluation and refinement.

For example, an e-commerce formal clothing company called Getup used Helio’s Opportunity Index to prioritize concepts for their minimum viable product (MVP).

The team started by gathering a list of feature ideas that they were most excited about, such as personal online style experts, push-to-store options to try on clothes in person, and outfit suggestions for events.  

Example of opportunities gathered for ecommerce clothing company, Getup

These ideas were listed into the Opportunity Index framework, with areas for the team to expand on what problem each concept is solving, why it’s important, and how it can be beneficial for the business.

Example of feature ideas gathered for ecommerce clothing company, Getup, then fleshed out with problem, hunch, and how it affects the business

With dozens of ideas on the table, survey questions were asked to gauge the value of these ideas, such as this numerical scale interest question:

0-10 scalar survey question used to gauge the value of each idea

In this instance, we see most participants landing in the 8 – 10 levels of interest, though also a surprising amount (over 10%) down in the 0 – 3 range. This indicates a high level of interest in the idea, though some level of distrust in the written concept.

Once data has been collected on each feature idea, the value of that idea is translated into a 1 – 5 rating based on how important it would be to a Getup user. For instance, the numerical scale data above would be given a 4 out of 5 user rating, since many online consumers showed interest, but there was that spike of doubt in over 10% of the audience.

User ratings from survey question were added to Getup's opportunity index to help organize and rank ideas

The data observation supporting each user rating is listed to the right, as well as a link leading to the raw data itself.

Now, with a user rating for each opportunity in hand, the Biz and Tech ratings could also be applied to each idea based on input from the Getup team. The Technical feasibility of each idea was rated on a 1 – 5 scale by Getup’s engineering team (5 being easiest), and the project’s key stakeholders gave input on the Business value on a 1 – 5 scale. 

Other inputs were used to help organize and rank feature ideas in Getup's opportunity index chart.

The final total out of 15 is evaluated for each opportunity, with the highest ranking opportunities representing a combination of importance to the business and users, and simple to build from a technical standpoint.

This opportunity ranking technique produced a highly detailed ranking of each idea that Getup had on the table for their e-commerce MVP, using data-backed decision making and input from multiple teams across Getup’s org.

View the Helio Example

Step Projects: Experimentation in Action

With your satchel of ideas in hand, it’s time to experiment. Step projects are your laboratory. In the spirit of continuous discovery, you don’t just build; you hypothesize, test, and iterate. Each project step is a mini-experiment, validating your ideas against the real world. And because you’re smart and agile, you can pivot without missing a beat, ensuring that what you build today won’t be obsolete tomorrow.

Continuous discovery supports step-projects in the GIST Framework by ensuring that each project phase is informed by real-time user feedback and market data. By adopting a “Think Big but Start Small” philosophy, step-projects are kept concise, each lasting no more than 10 weeks, which allows for rapid experimentation and learning. 

example of step projects and experimentation in action to illustrate mocks, rough versions, alpha tests, beta tests, and more.

This approach aligns with the Lean Startup’s Build-Measure-Learn principle, turning each step-project into a test for the underlying idea. By doing so, investment is optimized, as ideas that don’t work are quickly discarded, while those that show promise receive more resources and refinement. This iterative process ensures that the final product results from continuous learning and improvement, often leading to solutions that surpass the initial conception​

Tasks: The Daily Grind of Discovery

Tasks are where discovery gets down to the nitty-gritty. These are the day-to-day activities informed by the latest user insights. They’re the coding challenges solved by yesterday’s user testing and the design tweaks inspired by this morning’s customer interview. In the world of GIST, tasks are as dynamic as the feedback that fuels them, ensuring that every line of code directly responds to user needs.

Incorporating continuous UX research into the GIST framework, tasks are the granular activities derived from each step-project. While traditional agile planning tools and methods like Kanban boards and Scrum sprints remain vital, they are enhanced by the agility of the overarching layers. Testing can be broken into smaller, sequential usability surveys using Helio.

Getup, the e-commerce clothing company, employed these sequential usability surveys to build their MVP mobile app. With fresh design mockups in hand, the Getup team used first-click testing to measure the success of different actions across key pages of their site.

For instance, Getup’s homepage is filled with important features they want consumers to take advantage of on their first visit, like their event calendar idea and shop this look actions.

By uploading their first lo-fi wireframes into Helio, Getup asked an audience of e-commerce consumers to interact with the page to complete certain actions.

click test results from Getup testing a prototype page

Within a matter of hours, they collected over 100 visitor interactions across different screens on their site.

When asking participants to interact with the Sync Your Calendar action at the top of the page, Getup found that a significant amount of users also click into the Account page at the bottom of the screen.

Since the Event Calendar was an exciting new feature for the app, the team knew they needed to establish this secondary route for visitors to complete this key action.

With quick tests like this, Getup gathered usability data on 12 key actions across 3 pages of their new app, and continued to track that usability across 4 iterations of each page. Check out Getup’s full data collection and findings in our Interaction Matrix guide.

This approach allows tasks to be planned in 1-2 week iterations, aligning with the team’s chosen development methodology, and they are subject to daily adjustments. The key distinction lies in the readiness for change at all levels, ensuring that tasks are continuously informed and refined through iterative UX research and feedback.

Iteration and Feedback: The Heartbeat of Continuous Discovery

If continuous discovery had a heartbeat, it would throb to the rhythm of iteration and feedback. It’s a never-ending dance of building, measuring, learning, and returning to the drawing board. With the GIST Framework, this isn’t a setback; it’s the core of your development process. It’s about embracing that your first attempt won’t be perfect, and that’s okay because each iteration brings you closer to software nirvana.

So there you have it, an approach to software success with a continuous discovery twist. By weaving your discovery process into the GIST Framework, you’re not just building software but crafting a responsive, user-focused product that evolves as quickly as the market itself. There’s a universe of insights and user experiences waiting to be discovered!

GIST Framework FAQs

What is the GIST Framework?
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The GIST Framework is a methodology focusing on goals, ideas, step projects, and tasks for effective project delivery, complementing continuous discovery.

How does the GIST Framework enhance software development?
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It emphasizes iterative development, allowing for phased testing and refinement of the product based on user feedback.

What are the four main components of the GIST Framework?
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The four parts are Goals, Ideas, Step Projects, and Tasks, each playing a specific role in project development.

Goals are long-term, measurable objectives that guide the overall strategy and provide clarity across the organization. Ideas are creative solutions and hypotheses formed to achieve the set goals and are a crucial part of the iterative process.

Step Projects are short, iterative projects that test the ideas in action, helping to refine and improve them. Tasks are specific, actionable steps that are executed within the step projects.

Does the GIST Framework require a specific project management tool?
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The framework integrates well with agile planning tools and Kanban boards, maintaining flexibility and adaptability.

Can the GIST Framework be applied to any type of project?
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While primarily used in software development, its principles can be adapted to various projects that benefit from iterative development and continuous discovery.

What makes the GIST Framework different from traditional project management methods?
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Its emphasis on continuous discovery, iterative development, and the flexibility to adapt to user feedback sets it apart from rigid, traditional methods.

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