The Importance of Discovery

‘No one ever listened themselves out of a job.’ Calvin Coolidge, US President (1872–1933)

Discovery is a technique for finding out what I need to know from my clients in a way that moves the conversation forward, to the benefit of both parties.

It has many characteristics that one might not associate with engineering: It is an art rather than a science; it is more associated with commercial work than technical; its objectives are often indirect (relationships and influence) rather than direct (facts and figures). However, I suggest that Discovery can be of immense help to CAEs, since (1) finding things out is a prerequisite to solving any consulting or applications problem, and (2) it is often much easier to persuade a client to accept a technical solution with an indirect, Discovery-based approach than with a head-on, logical explanation.

It is helpful to make a distinction between Learning Discovery, which is for finding out information of all sorts, and Guiding Discovery, which has different goals.

Learning Discovery allows me to get facts and figures about projects, data about a client company’s internal organisation, market statistics, and so on. The DISCOVER-Ytool is associated with Learning Discovery since its primary purpose is to help me to cover the most important subjects during discussions with customers.

Guiding Discovery, on the other hand, concentrates on the problems that the situation poses for the client and the needs that they have as a result. Guiding Discovery, which we associate with the SUBROUTINE tool, not only uncovers valuable information, it also allows me to direct the flow of a conversation and make suggestions that might otherwise meet with resistance.