Feature Mining — Where do you start?

Feature Mining

Last week, we held a webinar with Miro on Feature Mining, our technique for finding a good first slice of a big, complex idea. Or, in Cynefin terms, designing a good probe to try to get out of the complex domain. The big, complex idea could be a project, a new product, a non-profit initiative, or even an organizational change.

Feature Mining starts bygetting a cross-functional group together—people who understand the problem side of the big idea as well as people who understand the solution side. Together, they brainstorm around four topics:

1. What impact are we hoping to achieve with this initiative?
2. What makes it big (i.e. a lot of effort and time)?
3. Where’s the risk? What could go wrong that could cause us to fail to achieve the desired impact?
4. Where’s the uncertainty? What questions do we need to answer to be successful?

Then, they identify the most important item on each list.

Next, the group does another round of brainstorming, thinking about possible ways to get some of the top impact without having to take on the top contributor to size, ways to mitigate the top risk without having to take on the top contributor to size, and ways to begin to resolve the top uncertainty again without having to take on the top contributor to size.


Finally, the group looks at those possible ways to slice and finds an interesting combination that gets some early value, risk-mitigation, and learning. On products, this usually means a Minimum Marketable Feature. For other kinds of initiatives, it’s often an experiment or prototype.

For more on Feature Mining…

This week’s not-so-key idea:

When you go to a favorite restaurant, do you order the same thing every time or eat through the menu? Peter eats a plant-based diet, so at most restaurants, he has no option to eat through the menu. Richard finds the thing he loves and orders that every time. Richard’s wife Dawn tries everything on the menu. Unfortunately, at their current favorite restaurant (Zocalito in Denver), she only has two items left! How about you?

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