Choosing what discovery to go forward with

A researcher in another gov department recently messaged about tips for choosing what discovery to go with next.

I thought this was an interesting question. There’s many ways to go forward. And context can change this a lot.

When I find myself in a similar situation I like to create frameworks within the team. Myself, product, programme whoever on what factors we’d use to decide as a team that something’s worth looking into more.

Not just what we could do. But what will help make a decision. And the organisation a better decision about what to do next. Even if that’s just ourselves about the direction of the service we’re providing.

Some factors I use in a that framework are:

User impact

How much is this area gonna improve things? And how likely is the change going to be welcomed and embraced?

Business impact

How much is this gonna chime with a benefit or impact to the organisation? [grasp an opportunity, save money, reduce cost, improved specific outcomes]

Strategic alignment

Does this thing have strategic buy-in or alignment? If not, doesn’t mean don’t do it. Just that’s a factor in how much effort it’ll be to get people to buy into this work.

Ease to do

Is this something we can do? And find out about? Or does it include working across teams and organisations. Again. Doesn’t mean don’t do it. Just be brutally honest that the more of a system you have to understand the harder it’ll be

Can we name the decision it’ll help make?

If we know what decision we need to make. Then a discovery is really focused, well scoped and easy to shape. If it isn’t we may need to think about it again. Or try explaining it again.


How likely is it the things we’re looking into are things we can solve? The NHS has wasted millions on discoveries and alphas into things that’ll take billions to solve etc.

Are we trying to boil the ocean when it might make sense to start somewhere smaller?

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