01 Frame

Establish shared understanding

The Product Field · 01 Frame

The Product Field is essentially an exploratory model and visual representation of product innovation that helps describe and dissect specific innovations. It provides a shared vocabulary that frames thinking about product innovation in a way that supports maximizing stakeholder impact.

The model and its representation are defined on the following levels:

CONCEPTUAL SPACE AND CANVAS – The foundation of the model is a conceptual space in which the interactions of a product innovation’s agents, strategies, artifacts and conditions can be understood. This space is visually represented as a canvas.

ASPECTS AND AREAS – The building blocks of the model are called aspects of product innovation. They are visually represented as areas of the canvas.

SETS AND ZONES – The aspects are grouped into sets based on their respective position in the conceptual space. The sets are visually represented in the zones of the canvas.

ELEMENTS AND CHARACTER – Finally, the aspects can be aggregated into four elements of innovation, the particular realization of which in a concrete innovation define its character.

A shared understanding of product innovation requires abstraction as well as illustration. Share This

Conceptual Space and Canvas

The Product Field’s conceptual space is defined by two dimensions derived from the creation-to-introduction vector of product innovation’s canonical definition. To arrive at the dimensions, the vector is first decomposed into two orthogonal bases:

  1. A product originates inside an organization and has to reach users and customers outside of it; thus it follows an inside-to-outside trajectory. This constitutes the introduction basis of the vector.
  2. A product is implemented to achieve a certain purpose for the stakeholders; thus it follows a purpose-to-implementation trajectory. This constitutes the realization basis of the vector.

These bases are then extended to form the introduction and realization dimensions of the Product Field’s conceptual space, which can thus be interpreted as a two-dimensional, finite cartesian coordinate system.

The coordinate system has its origin midway between inside and outside, purpose and implementation, and captures all possible product trajectories. It is visually represented in the Product Field’s canvas, the center of which denotes the coordinate system’s origin.

Aspects and Areas

The Product Field considers all possible agents, strategies, artifacts and conditions of product innovation. To arrive at an exploratory model of the system they constitute, these components are grouped into different populations according to their causal and conceptual roles.

The corresponding building blocks of the model are called aspects of product innovation. They systematically represent the empirical facts about a product innovation.

The Product Field distinguishes twelve different aspects: goals, drivers, enablers, production, distribution, customers, users, motivations, problem, solution, alternatives, and uniqueness. They are introduced in detail in the following chapter.

The causal and conceptual roles of a population also determine the corresponding aspect’s position in the Product Field’s coordinate system: its coordinates in the introduction and realization dimensions are determined by their roles in the inside-to-outside and purpose-to-implementation processes of product innovation.

An aspect’s visual representation in the Product Field’s canvas is called an area. Each area is located at distances from the canvas’s center corresponding to the aspect’s position in the coordinate system.

Since every fact about a specific product innovation corresponds to one of the model’s aspects, visual representations of the facts can be mapped to the respective areas of the canvas.

Sets and Zones

Center

At the center of every product innovation is the product itself: a physical or virtual good or service that is created inside the organization to be introduced outside of it and is implemented to achieve a certain purpose. Hence, the first set is a singleton that contains the product aspect, posi- tioned at the origin of the coordinate system, and is called center. The zone representing it on the canvas is located at the latter’s center.

Product Thinking puts the product at the center of all attention and activity. Share This

Core

The core of a product innovation is the value proposition embodied by the product – its specific promise of value to users and customers.

The set that defines the product’s value proposition is thus called core and consists of problem, solution, alternatives, and uniqueness. The corresponding zone surrounds the center of the canvas.

At its core, every innovation is a promise of value. Share This

Context

Every product is created, realized, introduced and used in an environment of interacting stakeholders, objectives and means of innovation.

The corresponding aspects of the Product Field’s model cover the inside and outside, purpose and implementation of the product innovation and are grouped into a set called context. It contains goals, drivers, enablers, production, distribution, customers, and users, and is visually represented by the outermost zone of the canvas.

The center, core and context sets are mutually exclusive and complementary in constituting the Product Field’s model of product innovation.

The context of an innovation determines its chances of success. Share This

Elements and Character

Finally, pairing the boundaries of the Product Field's coordinate system - inside and outside, purpose and implementation - results in the compound elements of an innovation to which its aspects can be aggregated:

  1. on the inside, its purpose is to realize an idea,
  2. on the outside, its purpose is to create value,
  3. on the outside, its implementation caters to a market,
  4. on the inside, its implementation utilizes resources.

The four elements are visually indicated in the corners of the Product Field's canvas.

The particular strengths and weaknesses of an innovation determine the relative contribution of each element to success and thus the innovation's character.

Innovation needs contributions from all its elements in order to succeed. Share This

FRAME IN PRACTICE

When you draw the Product Field yourself, start from the inside out, first delineating all areas and zones and then labelling them. The labels for the different aspects of your product innovation will be explained in the next chapter. You can either project the Field’s canvas onto Metaplan-sized paper, a flipchart or a large white-board, and use it to guide your drawing – or, maybe after a couple of sessions, just draw it freehand. Anyway, try to:

  • make it really big so it can take a lot of sticky notes,
  • use thick (and good!) markers,
  • keep the 5:3 ratio of Core and Context width and height,
  • differentiate between Core, Context and Elements by using different label sizes and letter forms: lower-case sans-serif for Core, upper-case sans-serif for Context, upper-case serif and multiline for Elements.
The Product Field Reference Guide · CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · K.P. Frahm, M. Schieben, W. Wopperer-Beholz · productfield.com

Get the print book

Valuable advice for ambitious product people.

beautiful designed book · 132 pages · includes The Product Field “Safety Bike” poster · made with love and printed locally · white silkscreen print cover · saddle stitch binding

Get Your Copy