Opportunity Solution Tree

An Opportunity Solution Tree (OST) is a visual tool that helps product teams during continuous discovery to structure and document the problem-solving and innovation process.

A Visual Aid

An OST is organized as a hierarchical tree diagram, with the intended business outcome as the root node on top:

From that top-level node, the tree branches out to map all the different opportunities – which is a generalized term to represent both, the pains and gains of customers. Several layers of opportunities may be used in order to cluster related pains and gains.

Once these opportunities have been clarified, they are prioritized and only then starts the search for solutions to the most important opportunities.

For each potential solution, experiments are defined – in her book, Teresa actually called them assumptions which makes it more clear that these assumptions need to be validated before a solution can be implemented.

Steps to Create an OST

Here is the typical process for creating an Opportunity Solution Tree:

Step 1

Focus on a specific outcome, a business objective you want to achieve.

Step 2

Conduct user research to understand the needs and pain points of your customers and represent them as opportunities. In doing so, distinguish different user personas and user journeys.

Step 3

Group related opportunities to form clusters.

Step 4

Prioritize and select the most important opportunities to start working on.

Step 5

Ideate to find solutions. In doing so, be very open-minded as to how a solution might look like. However, every solution needs to link to an opportunity – because otherwise, it doesn’t serve our goals.

Step 6

For each potential solution, make the underlying assumptions explicit and organize experiments to validate these.

In reality, as often in Product Discovery, creating an OST is a continuous, non-linear process. 

Furthermore, we haven often experienced situations where a solution would serve multiple opportunities, or where a low-level opportunity would support multiple higher-level goals. Hence, we would not be dogmatic and require an OST to be a real tree – when it could also be a directed graph.

Further Reading

Opportunity Solution Trees

Visualize Your Thinking.

Teresa Torres | Product Talk

Opportunity Solution Tree

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